To understand how students learn in a classroom, one must observe them undisturbed in their natural habitat--the classroom. But to understand how teachers teach, many professional development services tend to overlook this approach, instead opting to deliver information on best practices absent of any data about the teacher or their students.
A new startup, An Estuary, which grew out of Baltimore's Digital Harbor Foundation, hopes to change that with the launch of its Sanderling Field Journal in August.
The Field Journal will allow teachers to collect, capture, and store multiple sources of data from all over their classroom--from student interactions with one another to videos of direct teacher instruction. Teachers can then share their journal filled with photos, links, and documents with other teachers in their network or with their mentors so they can reflect on the whole picture together.
As Shelly Blake-Plock, CEO of An Estuary and formerly Co-Executive Director at the Digital Harbor Foundation, puts it: “We see it as a formative assessment tool for teachers themselves looking at their own practice.” The Field Journal is designed to capture the ups and downs of the teacher’s experience, and then use those data points to come up with a plan of what to do next. What better way than to treat the classroom like a wild habitat and to record everything that happens inside and out?
That the teacher PD world needs a shake up is no secret. According to Blake-Plock, these efforts will have to come from teachers as they take charge of their own professional learning, connect with each other, and drive their own education. Are connected educators and informal PD the key to “disrupting” traditional ineffective PD models? Maybe. Can tools like Sanderling’s Field Journal be a part of that disruption? Check back with them in August to find out.