training for educators
Not many adages stand the test of time quite like this one: to be the best, learn from the best.
Sage advice, which is why Houston-based Sibme, the learning engagement platform designed by teachers, is introducing an all-new artificial intelligence tool to transform professional learning for teachers.
By harnessing the power of AI, Sibme will boost the effectiveness of instructional coaching and save teachers’ time as they receive data and feedback in real time on how they conduct their classroom lessons. This is accomplished by providing teachers with more opportunities for meaningful, in-depth conversations with their instructional coaches through automatically generated quantitative data on video and audio recordings of teachers’ classroom instruction.
“When David Wakefield founded the company in 2013, it was primarily based on something that was pretty difficult to do at the time, which was just being able to record and upload video in classrooms,” COO TJ Hoffman tells InnovationMap. “Sibme was the first mobile-first technology that made it possible to upload a video longer than an hour into the cloud. And that was sort of our original approach in the classrooms.
Wakefield and Hoffman were former teachers, with former working in Houston ISD, and the latter in Pasadena ISD.
"We recognized that a lot of the ways in which teachers are trained in traditional workshops, or trainings like modules online and stuff like that, weren't in any way improving our ability to do our jobs as teachers," Hoffman says. “And the thing that really did make it easy for us to grow as teachers was watching other teachers teach and being able to ask them questions and that sort of stuff.
"It's hard to do in schools because teachers are in classrooms with kids all day long," Hoffman continues. "There's no time for them to leave and go watch someone else do their job. So that idea of recording a video and annotating it with comments and asking feedback three minutes in, like ‘Hey, why did you ask that question of that student that way?’ That was something that we originally did, and that's been the primary driver of our growth over the last ten years.”
Efficient education for the educators
With the tagline, “making every moment a teachable moment,” Sibme has broken through as the go-to learning engagement platform for professional development, replete with coaching, cohort-based professional learning communities and peer-to-peer collaboration.
“The thing that we've recognized and have worked on for the last couple of years is, if I record and upload a 45-minute lesson and share it with the teacher next door or the principal at the school or somebody else, they've got to watch it for 45 minutes and that's time-consuming as well,” says Hoffman. “Our newest iteration, our AI tools, make it easier to identify key moments in a video that are related to things that a teacher can do better to reach kids more equitably and more effectively so that they're learning better.”
Not surprisingly, the creators of Sibme are excited about the AI component, which is able to watch the videos, transcribe them and identify key moments where the teacher asks important questions in those videos.
“Now with the AI tool, I can go straight to those moments and see which kids I have called on, what kinds of questions I have asked them, who responded and who hasn't, so it helps teachers develop better strategies for reaching kids.”
Practice makes progress, according to the Sibme platform, which embeds training and collaboration in every workday, engaging employees while building a stronger community of learners.
“Sibme builds off the same principle of athletes,” adds Wakefield. “I can watch a million Astros games, but I'm not going to be a better baseball player until I pick up a bat or pick up a glove and actually start playing and then get coaching on it, right? It's the same principle for training teachers. Teaching is a complex activity. I can't just show you how to teach or tell you how to teach and then you can do it.
“You've got to get up and teach, and then you've got to get really concrete feedback the same way that a great coach provides concrete feedback to a player. Hold the bat a little bit differently or, you know, lean on your left hip. Those real kind of small changes, it's the same thing with a teacher. You know, walk to the left side of the room. Being able to actually provide that feedback on the teacher's work rather than saying, here's how you should teach, which is what training typically does, right? Training is just theory, not actual practice. This is giving teachers an opportunity to rehearse and then get coached by a real coach, whether that coach is someone with a formal title of instructional coach or just the teacher next door.”
Making the network work
Sibme’s novel, yet simple approach to improving teachers via their peers has proven to be much more effective than the typical training methods of the past.
Currently, Sibme works with more than 1,000 innovative schools, districts, and institutions – including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ASCD, Scholastic, the University of Texas, and the Houston Independent School District.
“At this point, I believe we're in 40 states,” says Wakefield. “We're also in some international countries. We have some channel partners that have also helped distribute for us. We probably are in every state in the US in some form or another, in a white-labeled version or within our own Sibme platform. We're definitely one of the leaders in our space for this type of next-generation solutions for professional learning and training.”
And as schools nationwide try to battle with teacher retention, Sibme offers its own solution by giving teachers concrete evidence that they are growing and improving as educators. After all, Sibme is an acronym for “Seeing is Believing Me,” which means that teachers will likely stay onboard if they feel that they are succeeding.
“One of our principals said that they don't have a retention problem because they invest so much in teacher excellence,” says Wakefield. “And when teachers feel successful, then they don't leave. They had, I think it was like an 86 percent decline in teacher turnover in one year just from the teachers being able to look at themselves and see that they’re growing and getting better and improving. That has a huge impact on their feelings of success in their jobs.”
A bright future
With more than 10 years under its belt, Sibme hopes the next 10 will offer even more advancements in the professional development space.
“We're sort of in that first sort of initial iteration of our release with AI,” says Wakefield. “That's only going to improve where things will just become more and more automated. The platform is just going to be able to help them do their work much more efficiently in the future. And they can coach and support far more people than they ever could without AI. And the experts can come in and leverage the AI to be so much more effective at their jobs.
“We’ll continue preparing the next generation of teachers, as well as in university teacher prep programs, so that teachers are getting better prepared for the realities of the classroom by getting a lot more reflection and practice.”
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