Opinion Blog

Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

2 Technology Tools That Will Help Change Your Impact

By Peter DeWitt — October 13, 2015 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Tools are only as good as the relationships we build in our schools so we can use them to authentically connect with stakeholders.

Sitting in my office when I was a principal, I had an idea. It was a few days before our Open House in 2012 and I wanted to engage parents in a different way. In the words of Stephen Covey, we had an emotional bank account together. There were times when I made withdrawals in the school community...or individually with parents. Other times I made deposits by engaging and listening...or treating their children with the respect they deserved.

So...I knew that I could capture the attention of a few.

Using my laptop at home, I created a 5 minute video using some slides and I focused on the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), which was the anti-bullying legislation passed in New York State, where I was a principal. Additionally, I spent two minutes talking about the Common Core, which was being poorly implemented in NY, but parents needed to know as much as we knew. I saved the video, and sent it out using Edline, which was our parent portal. I asked them to attend the Principal Conversation part of Open House with questions.

After pressing send everything changed in my life as a principal. It was called Flipped Leadership.

Parents watched. They laughed, they cried. Ok, they may have laughed but hopefully they didn’t cry. Within 30 minutes I heard from a parent (and yes, I remember specifically which one...thank you Ethan). He thanked me because he couldn’t always get to school and loved the new format.

3 days later at Open House we had standing room only, which wasn’t unlike other open houses, but this one was different. We engaged in dialogue about what bullying was and what it was not. We talked a bit about the Common Core, but mostly focused on DASA. We all left feeling different.

Which brings me to tool #1. Touchcast.

I used to flip my leadership using some online formats that no longer exist, and often had to use my home computer because the desktop in my office didn’t have a camera or a microphone. Then I found Touchcast thanks to my fellow professional learning network (PLN) friend Curt Rees.

With my iPad, I was able to easily create videos for teachers and parents. Touchcast made it so easy to flip, and they make it even easier now. They have a green screen option so users can transform their office to a news desk or outer space if they like. They have a teleprompter so users can write something in a Word document and cut/paste the document into the teleprompter so they can remember what they want to say.

The cool thing about Touchcast, is that over the last couple of years, they have used the feedback of many educators around the world (including me!) to make the whole Touchcast experience so much more user-friendly.

Now they have Touchcast Studio in a Box, which is an all-in-one package. Touchcast Studio comes with a green screen, lapel mic, and mini tri-pod. It has everything a principal, teacher or library media specialist could ever need.

Using the Studio in a Box, educators and leaders can transform their classrooms or offices into a creative space to flip their leadership or put students in control over their own creative experiences. Open the box, set it up, and ask students to find creative ways to express themselves.

Touchcast changed the way I communicated with parents and teachers, and there are many educators and leaders who have the same experience I did. It also makes the opportunities for learning experiences so much more creative for teachers and students. Check it out!

Do the Twist!

The other tool which has completely rocked my world as an instructional coaching trainer and workshop presenter is Swivl. A few years ago and the Boston Tech Forum, I saw it demoed by someone at Swivl. He made it look so easy, and I really never thought using it would be as easy as he made it look. The reality is that it is just that easy.

It begins with wearing a lanyard around your neck that is no heavier than a school badge. The lanyard has a remote control on it, and teachers need to just press record...and suddenly...the Smartphones and tablets that fit perfectly into the Swivl are transformed into recording devices that help teachers and leaders see their blind spots.

We all have blind spots (Scharmer). There are parts of our instruction and leadership that we don’t see. We can’t possibly see the places where we need growth...or even the places we succeed. Using a device like Swivl helps record interactions with students and teachers. It provides us with the evidence we need when we reflect on our teaching and interactions.

The Swivl seriously moves from one direction to the other flawlessly because it follows the voice of the person wearing the recorder. After a few moments, because no one stands next to the device, it is easily forgotten that it is on which really helps us go to a deeper learning place.

In the work of John Hattie, someone I work with as a Visible Learning trainer, Micro-teaching has a .75 effect size, which is almost double the hinge point of .40. An effect size of .40 is consistent with a year’s worth of growth in student learning for a year’s input. By using a Swivl and recording our teaching, we can clearly see the impact we have on students during instruction. It provides us a window into our blind spots.

In the End

Tools are only as good as the relationships we build in our schools so we can use them to authentically connect with stakeholders. Even the best tools won’t work in school climates that are hostile and focus on rule following rather than risk-taking.

Swivl and Touchcast are serious contenders to be game changers with how we connect with others in our school communities. Even the biggest technophobe could use these tools in a way that will help deepen learning and communication.

Connect with Peter on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP