Put Your Teaching on a Swivel

by Kimberly A. Blitch, College of Human Environmental Sciences

Our department (Human Development and Family Studies) is using SWIVL robot cameras in the 10 classrooms of The Children’s Program (TCP serves children from birth to age five). This technology supports our students — teacher candidates — in conducting video observations of their teaching and interactions with children.

Here is an example of how an instructor at Grand Valley State University uses Swivl for classroom observations:

This is instrumental as students in our early childhood education (ECE) major learn early childhood curriculum planning, instructional strategies and pedagogical techniques, and skills in reflective practice. Students also need to video record their student teaching in order to earn the teaching certificate that our program offers.

Our students use the SWIVL cameras throughout methods courses and into their student teaching internships. The lead and assistant teachers in TCP also use them for their own reflective practice, which is particularly helpful since The Children’s Program has recently transitioned to a Reggio-inspired approach to curriculum.

The SWIVL system also includes other features that enhance teaching, reflective practice, and the evaluation of teaching effectiveness. For instance, PowerPoint can be integrated while in individual lectures. Though, we haven’t moved into these features just yet. The cameras are portable but can also be mounted to any tripod. They are compatible with both Apple and Android products, like cell phones and iPads.

First, users download the SWIVL app to their preferred recording device. There are many tutorials, and it’s very user-friendly. The app establishes a cloud-based account in which their recordings are stored. This is a nice feature because recordings don’t have to monopolize storage space on students’ phones or other devices. The system/account is FERPA-compliant.

Second, students then mount it to the base. The cameras feature automated camera tracking and wireless audio recording, so students are able to easily record their teaching and interactions with children by wearing a ‘marker’ on a lanyard. The cameras track the marker (roughly the size of a USB drive), so students and teachers can remain hands-free. The sound and picture quality are crisp (for lack of a better descriptor).

The Swivl cameras are relatively inexpensive and could have utility in many departments and disciplines across campus, even those that aren’t education-focused. It’s possible that the system may be useful in nutrition counseling sessions, language departments, in supporting students with various learning needs (e.g., ODS supports), and when supporting graduate students and early career professionals in teaching pedagogy.


Kimberly A. Blitch is an Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Human Environmental Sciences