Google Hangout PD

Teachers use Google Hangout to share a classroom lesson to their school community for feedback afterwards

Photo of Marlon NG

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Off campus teacher professional development (PD) is not always effective.  Schools must spend a considerable amount of money and time for teachers to train with external experts.  Unfortunately this model may not account for a teacher's personal needs and growth.  To elaborate, schools often fund PD related to their school-wide initiative rather than individuals' needs.  One example is that novice teachers may require PD on classroom management before embarking on a new reading program.  A factor to ineffective off campus PD is the diversity in teachers' backgrounds and learning styles.  A single workshop cannot accommodate every teacher in a school.  Finally a school has its distinctive characteristics, and an external expert would not be able to understand how to apply theory into a particular school context.  Instead only the teachers within their schools can make the best decisions for their students.

Rationale for Peer Observation as a Solution

There is untapped PD potential for teachers to learn through peer observations.  Visiting other classrooms helps teachers see theory translate to classroom practice in their school setting.  Classroom observation are flexible to visiting teachers' interest.  They may focus their observation on one or a multiple lesson components, such as classroom management, teacher talk, student engagement, ... etc.  Another advantage to peer observation is that the host teacher may receive feedback from their visitor.  Thus peer observation is cost-effective way for differentiated learning and feedback.  Nevertheless the main hindrance to effective peer observations is scheduling the time.

Initial Prototype

In this past week, my school prototyped a workflow to foster scheduling classroom visits.  Nine teachers have participated in this sprint of using Google Calendar and QR  to schedule peer observations.  The QR codes were chosen for its simplicity and accessibility through teachers' smartphones.  These codes directed the host teacher to a Google Form which asked for details about the lesson (time, place, and content).  The Google Forms was scripted to automatically schedule into Google Calendar.  Finally before the lesson started, the host teacher also posted a sign on their door to encourage teachers to visit.  Thus, during the teachers' prep time, they may check Google Calendar to see if someone was hosting a lesson for observation.

Generally we found the test teachers welcomed this experience with some challenges.  We were encouraged to see visiting teachers engage the host teacher with questions.  We also saw visiting teachers follow up with emails to the host teachers.  Nevertheless some teachers missed the lesson observation because they forgot to check their calendar.  Because our campus was wide spread, it was inconvenient to visit faraway classrooms.

The Solution--Google Hangout 

Given our initial testing, I would like to propose Google Hangout as an alternative to peer observation.  My solution would be to have the host teacher run a Google Hangout for visiting teachers to view a lesson virtually.  Using a mobile device or laptop, the teacher sends out a Google Hangout link invite to interested teachers.  The lesson would be broadcast live with the device mounted on a camera tripod.   Conversely devices, such as the Swivl, can hold and turn a mobile device to the direction of the linked bluetooth mic.  This would allow better access to viewing the room.  Teachers no longer need to travel in order to visit" a classroom live-streamed.  Another benefit might be that Google Hangouts can be recorded for later viewing.

Potential future questions I would like to explore with Google Hangout PD

How might we make the process of arranging for a Google Hangout easier for the teacher? 

  • Could we integrate Google classroom?
  • Can we develop a smartphone app which would make the workflow easier?

How might we design the Google Hangout PDs so that re-watching the entire lesson is not necessary?  

  • Can we use feedback tools, such as the applaud meter in Google Hangout, to identify clips worth viewing? 
  • Can viewers tag important written or audio feedback during live viewing?
  • Can the most clips from the lesson with feedback be compiled automatically into an attractive format for the host teacher to view.  I'm thinking something like Facebook's Year in Review

Aside from teachers who might we extend Google Hangout PD to?

  • Can students audit another teacher's class?
  • Can administrators, such as principals and superintendents, benefit from viewing Google Hangout PD?
  • Can people outside the K-12 system provide feedback to host teachers?  I'm thinking professors from teacher colleges.

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

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Yes! I love this idea. - 100%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Marlon NG

Hi Chris, 
My school has a few Swivls that we have used. We've used for recording student presentations to teacher recording their lessons.  I would say that the only hamper to the Swivls are that the mics sometimes not so great to record the kids' voices.  Nevertheless, its a great device to get a panoramic view of the lesson.  I would say even planting the camera in one spot can be very powerful for a GHO.  In some classrooms kids sit at their seats for a long period of time. 

Photo of Chris Good

Just saw this new video tool for classrooms  - could be a very interesting component for making this work!

"Swivl is an automated mobile accessory with a suite of online tools that enable educators to use video for professional development and instruction. The Swivl Robot, Capture app and Cloud work together with your mobile devices to create multimedia videos, which can be shared using our free, secure, FERPA and COPPA compliant video hosting service"

They even have a program where you can request a free demo device(robot)!

Photo of Chris Good

Marlon NG  Love the idea of "Virtual Classroom Visits" not only for teachers to see and experience how their peers and colleagues approach a topic or subject, but also on the student level! Imagine students in different subjects collaborating across classrooms with their peers or another teacher, or some outside guest expert?

What a great way to build a PD tool with a double life impacting the classroom!

Very interested to see where this can go!

Photo of William Ferriter

Hey Marlon, 

I really dig this idea as long as you can work out the logistics of keeping the lessons private to just a school community.  Making it public beyond that would violate all kinds of video taping and photographing rules in my district!

Do you plan to take the recorded videos and tag them/sort them by subject or by activity type?  I think the notion of a school-based video library highlighting effective practices across domains would be amazing -- especially in schools that have particular areas of emphasis.  For example, if design thinking were a part of a school's instructional culture, a video library of lessons on stages of design thinking would be incredibly useful.  It could quickly spread best practices AND serve as an introduction to new faculty members who weren't skilled in that field yet.

From a technical standpoint, I'm wondering how you will set up the camera to cover the lesson well.  Will you just be using the webcam in a laptop?  If so, will it provide a high enough quality video/coverage of the lesson to make the video worthwhile?

Hope this helps somehow, 

Photo of Marlon NG

Hi Bill,

To answer some of your questions about the Google + community.  As I understand, Google + operates in circles that can be privately shared.   Therefore a school can set up a "circle" to only stream to members in their own community.  That would not be hard to set up, as our school does that.
 Secondly, recording can be done with Google on Air, which saves into the Youtube channel.  There may be a way to make that recorded video private.  However, another suggestion might be screen video lesson.  
Finally, a device like
 might be helpful to move the camera with the speaker.  Nevertheless even a camera planted just at the corner of the room can be beneficial.
Our school is currently prototyping some of these ideas and testing it out in January 2016.  Because our school uses Google accounts, the workflow process might be easier.  We are using Google Calendars for teachers to book times for observations.  We also have four swivls for teachers to borrow.  Finally we are considering using Google Forms (linked to QR-Codes) for teachers to give feedback after the lesson.  I've seen a couple of our teachers' use Google Hangouts to showcase their lessons.  Because these were innovative teachers, watching their classrooms virtually was powerful learning for me.

Photo of Ashley Haskins

Thank you! That makes so much more sense. I like the idea and connection Emma made with Slack channels as a means for ongoing communication, like GHO. I see PD as ongoing collaboration=teams.
This application can be powerful and effective.

Photo of Ashley Haskins

I'm interested in finding out more about how to use this for professional development. Do you see this feature used to promote peer teacher feedback or other applications?

Photo of Marlon NG

Definitely this feature would be a worthwhile to explore with peer feedback.  Perhaps the feedback can be a Google Community.  Am interesting in prototyping the workflow for this.

Photo of Paula Marra

You can also make a slack channel for future conversations and iterations. On going PD and support!

Photo of Ashley Haskins

As a classroom teacher, seeing the comment "On going PD and support" raises caution flags. Where does the On going end? What is the goal? Teachers are strapped for time. How would we build a Google Community that is non threatening, engaging and goal oriented? Classroom teachers, like myself, don't have the luxury to have PD ongoing. 

Photo of Paula Marra

Hi Ashley,

I said on going because as Marlon said: "the lesson can also be recorded for future viewing by another set of teachers." so every time a group of teachers saw the lesson they would give feedback. Learning from colleagues, from their expertise and assuming best intentions is always a great form of PD. We learn and grow together. I am also a teacher and we observe each other share knowledge and learn from each other all the time. 

Photo of Emma Scripps

Ashley Haskins Hey Ashley, I totally hear you about how teachers have limited time. But I also really love Paula Marra 's idea bout how PD can be ongoing. For example,  there are some Slack channels that have teachers who pop in and off to get support on lesson planning.  The idea of ongoing is more that it doesn't just happen in one off in-person events. But definitely agree - time is such an issue. And teachers are always being asked to do so much.