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South Dakota partners with video platform for interactive professional development

The state affiliate of the National Education Association is using coaching tools from Edthena to loop teachers, not just administrators, into the professional learning process.

By Emily Tate (read the article from it's original source on

August 14, 2017 3:34 PM

Teachers in South Dakota no longer have to settle for the cursory feedback that follows administrators’ traditional two-minute, “drive-by” classroom observations.

The state’s arm of the National Education Association has partnered with video coaching platform Edthena to give teachers interactive, professional development that brings peer-to-peer feedback to the center of the professional learning process, said Casey Kilpatrick, director of learning services for the South Dakota Education Association (SDEA). It's the first time Edthena has formed such a statewide partnership.

Instructors can record themselves teaching a lesson, then upload the video to Edthena’s platform, where other teachers can watch, listen and provide constructive feedback using timestamped reactions categorized as "questions," "suggestions," "strengths" and "notes."

“What we’ve seen has just been amazing. The teachers really enjoy video-based feedback. It’s meaningful to them,” Kilpatrick told EdScoop, adding that younger, “millennial-age” teachers are especially receptive to this form of feedback. “It really hits home for them.”

Teachers can use any device to record and upload their lessons — recommended not to exceed 12 minutes — in a quick, two-click process on the Edthena app.

The creators of Edthena wanted to make the platform simple and straightforward, “unlike a lot of things that we ask teachers to do today,” Adam Geller, the company’s founder, said in an interview.

“They’re the ones capturing video, sharing it, uploading it,” he said. So in addition to being simple, “it’s very empowering for them.”

Edthena has been around for almost seven years and has a presence in almost 30 states, but the partnership with SDEA marks an important first for the company.

“It’s very exciting we have a state association who not only is bringing on the best possible [professional development] for their members to interact with, but using their ability to help influence change … all across the association, which means all across South Dakota,” Geller said.

SDEA’s 33,000 members have access to online courses on BRIDGE, a professional learning platform for the state. The courses may fulfill South Dakota’s annual professional development requirements or count toward a district initiative, but in each case, the teachers collaborate with each other to share ideas and improve instruction.

When the state was piloting Edthena in the spring and summer, teachers would upload their lessons to a group folder, accessible only by other SDEA teachers enrolled in that BRIDGE course.

Since the video footage is limited to a set group of teachers, the feedback is naturally more personal and conversational, Kilpatrick said. Plus, that allows the teacher behind the camera to feel more confident and comfortable when teaching the lesson.

As part of their BRIDGE course assignments, other teachers in the class are required to watch the video and provide feedback using Edthena’s tools — offering questions, suggestion, strengths and notes.

But it’s not just the teacher in the video who learns from the exercise. Because the video coaching encourages instructors to watch each other’s lessons, they are observing trends, strategies and best practices they could potentially incorporate into their own classrooms.

“I remember wanting to get targeted feedback on my teaching,” said Geller, a former teacher himself. “[I wondered], ‘What could I change so I could do it differently tomorrow to help my students have a better learning experience?’ Because we are helping enable that process, teachers respond positively.”

With two successful pilots complete and a full partnership established, the SDEA has scheduled seven classes this fall that use Edthena's video coaching platform.

Reach the reporter at and follow her on Twitter @ByEmilyTate and @edscoop_news.