Article Review: Show and Tell for Teachers, Inspired by Reality TV
August 17th 2012
I have a few conflicting feelings after reading Motoko Rich’s recent article in the New York Times, “Show and Tell for Teachers, Inspired by Reality TV.” In the article, Rich explores a new move by the Washington D.C. school district to hire a reality television film crew to make videos of their highest performing teachers. These videos are intended to be used as tools for newer or lesser performing teachers. The article is informative, but I wish it dove deeper into the complex issues of teacher training, professional development, and teacher evaluation.
Rich mentions that the benefit of producing high quality videos is that it gives teachers a chance to observe their peers. This can be rare seeing as most teachers are occupied in their own classrooms throughout the day. Also, film as a medium can convey much more than printed materials. As Dan Cogan-Drew, director of digital learning at Achievement First explains, “Some things are much more easily conveyed through video than just words and text.” I agree that it is much easier to model good teaching methods with video, but I do wonder how large of an impact the videos can make. Kaya Henderson, Washington’s schools chancellor shares this concern. Henderson said, “When you come home from a long day of teaching, do you want to whip out a professional development video and watch somebody else teach for 45 minutes? Heck, no.”
So how is the Washington school district going to make these videos attractive to overworked educators? With flashy editing, of course! I’m all for using art and design as a way to inspire action and tell important stories, but I definitely feel a little wary of using reality television techniques to capture the attention of educators. Check out this media campaign that a design firm created to “rebrand” teaching. I think this is a great example of how good design can effectively shift our perceptions about education, and what it means to be an educator.
The article informs us that the videos were originally filmed to complement the school district’s evaluation system, known as IMPACT. IMPACT has received mixed reviews from educators recently, but this isn’t mentioned in the article. I think another important point is that these videos were financed by a $900,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
I’m curious to hear from the educators out there—do you think you would benefit from videos that model good teaching? If your district received $900,000 to go towards teacher training and professional development, how would you like to see it spent? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!