I have been using a Swivl for a couple of years now and I believe it is a great tool. I am part of the Swivl Pioneer Program and received a Swivl to try out but that is not the reason why I like the Swivl so much. I like it because I believe that video can be a very powerful tool and having a tool like the Swivl which can record video of you easily while having great audio, can make that video more powerful than without using a Swivl.
I have seen too many videos of teachers in their classrooms that were shot on a phone or a small camera from the corner that required another person to record it. Those videos also had awful sound and made it very difficult to know what the teachers or students were saying. Being able to hear is just as important as being able to see what is going on in a classroom recording. The fact that the Swivl also has the ability to have multiple microphones or camera sources, makes this a very versatile tool.
Lastly, I believe that using video to reflect on our own teaching is too important to not do it. Professional athletes use video all the time to improve and teachers can do the same thing. There are too many things going on in a classroom that can affect our ability to perceive everything going on and our ability to accurately measure the learning going on, but video can help us overcome that.
My Top Tips and Tricks with the Swivl
- Practice, Practice, Practice – As with any tool, especially if you are using it for the first time, you need to practice using it before you get comfortable with it. Students tend to get used to the Swivl very easily so the more you use it, the less likely they are going to be impacted by it. It is also easy to forget a step when setting it up so by practicing, you will be more sure you are all set to go each time. You also have to get used to not turning your back to the Swivl, otherwise it can’t follow you.
- Be Conscious of the Line of Sight – The Swivl tracks you using an infrared signal sent from the Marker to the Swivl. This infrared light can’t travel through you, so when you turn your back to the Swivl, it will not know where you are. If you are walking around the room, make sure the Swivl can track you. This just means you might have to adjust how you move around your room.
- Use the Center Button on the Marker to Stop the Swivl – One setting that you can turn on, and I always have turned on, is the option to stop the swiveling of the Swivl by hitting the center button on the Marker. This is useful if you have the part of the classroom you want to record all set up and do not want it to move, even if you are moving.
- Check your Audio – In the upper right corner of the recording screen is a microphone icon that will show you the audio level that it is receiving. You can easily double check your connection by blowing into the microphone and watching the microphone icon turn red. This is a quick thing you can do to make sure your audio is all set up.
- Turn on Auto-Upload, Turn off Auto-Delete – Having your recording automatically upload to your Swivl Cloud is a great feature. If you are a control freak like me however, you may worry about that upload failing. Just for safety sakes, I turn off the auto-delete and will check my video in the Swivl Cloud before deleting it. This is just because I want to make sure I can get to it in the cloud before freeing up space on my iPad.
- Double Check Your Connections – This is the easiest mistake I see when people use the Swivl is that they forget to connect everything. In the older model of the Swivl you had to connect using both the audio cable (from the Swivl to the iPad) and make sure the Swivl was connected to the iPad using Bluetooth. The newer Swivl is nicer in that you only need to connect the base to the iPad using the lightning cable, one less thing to forget.
- Use a Tripod – While it may be easiest to just set the Swivl on a desk or off to the side, this can cause some issues when it is tracking you or allowing you to see more of what is happening in the classroom. You can easily place the Swivl onto a tripod in order to get a better view of the classroom and to bring the Swivl to a higher height so the infrared signal from the Marker to the base doesn’t get blocked by students as easily. Try different recording locations and see which angles you like the best.
- Use the Swivl Cloud – There are some nice features in the Swivl Cloud but my favorite is the ability to have time-stamped comments. This is great for watching the video later and leaving comments or questions at various points in the recording. You can easily click on the comment to get to that point in the video. We are currently recording a classroom for students who can’t be there and they can use the time-stamped feature to write notes over what is happening in class so they can better use that video in the future.
- Use your Instructional Coaches or Other Teachers to help you Reflect – I have a whole blog post on this so I will just link it here.
Overall, a tool is only effective as how you use it. The Swivl is a great tool for recording video but you need to think about how you are using it and how you can use it more effectively. Practice is important and involving others (Instructional Coaches or other teachers) can make things much better for both you and your students.