Early educators committed to improving the quality of child care can watch video replays as easily as sportscasters do with a new pilot program initiated by the state’s Department of Early Education and Care. As part of the Peer Assistance and Coaching program, online video-based services provided by Torsh Inc. make it easy to record and analyze classroom activity with specially trained coaches.
By wearing a microphone that transmits to a battery-operated rotating base, Torsh’s proprietary Talent program enables the teacher to use her own smartphone’s camera to film herself in the classroom. The video is immediately condensed and uploaded for viewing – but only by those selected by the teacher. Reviewers can annotate specific moments in the video. Using voice recognition technology, the video is also transcribed as text and indexed.
The Peer Assistance Program is part of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant, which Massachusetts and other states nationwide received in 2012 through a competitive application process. Race to the Top is an initiative to improve program quality through growth in all domains, as defined by the state’s Early Learning Standards. The Peer Assistance mentors, called Consultant Teachers, work one-on-one with educators. They have received intensive special training in teacher/child interaction and in coaching and continue to meet monthly for supervision with regional Educator and Provider Support (EPS) facilitators. This year’s pilot program is designed for just 30 early educators, five in each of the six EPS districts, who come from family day care and center-based facilities as well as out-of-school-time programs. The program pays for substitute time and educational resources for the teachers; Consultant Teachers receive an annual stipend. Trained class observers, who will compare child/educator interactions at the beginning and end of the year, do program evaluation.
According to Donna Jasak, the EPS facilitator for District 6 (Metro Boston), “All of the educators in Region 6 who are using it are loving the ability to capture video and then debrief with their coach at a time that’s convenient for them.” Using technology’s asynchronous capability is only one of the positive attributes of the program; being able to easily and instantly review video of their teaching has been revelatory for many of the teachers, who find themselves sensitized to attitude, use of language, facial expression, and other nuances that the video gives them a chance to critique. And when they prefer, they can opt not to share a particular video. Ultimately, in consultation with their mentors, this video-based strategy for quality improvement may fundamentally change their teaching.