Edthena: Improving Education by Video Analyzing Teachers
Edthena assists school districts in professional development by using the platform to promptly and smoothly upload videos of a teacher’s classroom instruction. The teachers review and share their videos with each other, peers, and coaches. The platform provides specialized timestamped comment tools. Each comment falls into a category as questions, suggestions, strengths, and notes. The teacher uses the information to improve their teaching skills. Coaches view the comments and graphs linked to the overall professional standards of the school and school district.
“One of the most important things we can do as a community working to help students reach their life and learning goals is ensure they have access to a classroom teacher who is well-prepared and well-supported.,” explains Adam Geller, Founder and CEO Edthena. “Using video for observation and feedback makes it possible to provide high-quality, personalized professional development for all teachers.”
Geller worked as a reporter for the local CBS-affiliateradio station before graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He then attended the University of Missouri-Saint Louis receiving his M.A. in Educational Administration. He taught middle school science and left the classroom and joined the national strategy team of Teach for America, focusing on educational technology for teachers across the country. In 2011, he was an Education Venture Fellow at the Kauffman Foundation and founded Edthena. He later authored the book “Evidence of Practice: Playbook for Video-Powered Professional Learning” in 2017.
“As a first-year science teacher in St. Louis, I remember the feeling of wanting to get better and not having anyone with science expertise available to come to see me teach. My hope is that we ensure all teachers are connected with the right person to support them in their efforts of providing students with the best education possible,” explains Geller. “I look across the various parts of our company to ensure alignment between our vision for helping teachers and each of the team members within our company. That includes our product development, our partnership, and our partner success team members.”
Edthena strives for the gold standard of helping teachers improve their craft of teaching by providing feedback on their classroom teaching through video, so they logistically access the right people at the right time. Geller understands it is challenging. “This is just as true for two teachers down the hall from each other as it is for two educators paired up across a state. With Edthena and video feedback, it’s possible to provide targeted support and enable teachers to develop as self-reflective practitioners.”
By reflective, Geller explains, “It’s similar to the idea of looking at yourself in the mirror. You get a true video picture of what's happening in your classroom, it is this objective representation of what is happening, and it allows you to see the facts and interpret them from that point forward. In the end, it is not meant to be just a place where you upload a video. It’s meant to be a place where you watch the video, you think about what you're seeing, you're able to engage, add commentary, share it with others, get their feedback as well.”
When a class performs well or, more importantly, does not perform well, the teacher analyzes the situation and makes changes to future lessons. The teacher, peer, or coach asks: “What is the reason for a specific series of events to occur during the span of a lesson?” Edthena offers five techniques to focus on while watching the video to find out what happened in the class: Spot, Break Down, Interpret, Compare, and Discuss.
“Without the ability to directly observe the instruction, teachers rely on their memory and student-outcomes information. In contrast, a video recording of a lesson allows the teacher to be an observer of themselves,” explains Geller. “For example, with video evidence, it’s easy for teachers to recognize how they might not be leaving enough wait time after questions or that a certain pocket of students isn’t participating equally.”
As explained in Geller’s book, research confirms video feedback and video coaching raises and bolsters teacher advancement. The biggest challenge Edthena faces is getting the teachers to try the video reflection. “And, let’s be honest, not many people wake up in the morning and think, ‘I’ve never recorded myself at work, but I’m going to try it today for fun,’” adds Geller. “We have to ensure teachers feel that Edthena is both easy to use and also a safe space. We invest heavily in the technology side to deliver experiences like a one-click recording from a web browser. We designed Edthena to put teachers in the driver’s seat. Teachers are given the tools to record and upload a video. They control who sees the video, and they can easily un-share videos.”
Geller indicates the power of video reflection is more than spotting the things that need correction. Video recording also finds the things that are going well in a classroom and celebrate a teacher’s success. “I was reminded of this by a teacher who was at the end of his first year of teaching. He commented that, yes, the video recordings of his classroom teaching made clear where he still had opportunities for professional growth, but the video also made clear all the things that were going right in his classroom and all the reasons he should feel proud that he had grown and developed as an instructional leader.”
“The very nature of technology is to use tools to amplify our work as humans. Ed-tech is important not because it is a technology used in learning environments but because it is the belief that the right tools can amplify our outcomes with learners. The learners can be both students in the classroom as well as teachers within their professional development. Ed-tech will continue to enable more personalized and more scalable forms of professional development for teachers. This will allow us to increase our effectiveness as educators and lead students to find their success,” concludes Geller.