Comparing the leading classroom observation tools

Different observation tools are available to suit various needs.

Policy makers in states from coast to coast are demanding more rigorous teacher evaluations that lead to real improvements in instruction—and school systems are changing their practices as a result.

Central to this effort are software tools that help school leaders record their observations during classroom walkthoughs and share this information with teachers to foster their professional growth.

Many programs include free apps for conducting walkthroughs using a mobile device—though not all solutions can be used both online and offline. Other features to compare include the software’s flexibility (can it be customized to meet each school’s evaluation needs?) and what sharing and reporting capabilities it includes.

To help school leaders compare some of the leading options, we’ve assembled this handy guide.

eCOVE Observer

Platform: Runs on Windows and Macintosh laptops and netbooks; each computer license includes a free license to an iOS or Android app.
How it works: The system can be used in walkthroughs, sit-downs, and in-depth observations. Evaluators can create objective data collection tools, plus checklist and scale tools. Observers can take notes or check off from a checklist.
Sharing: Users can print or eMail reports to teachers and other stakeholders.
Customization: Users can choose from a number of add-on tools for further customization.
Cost: Each license for a computer-based eCOVE edition includes one complimentary syncing license for an iPad, iPhone, or Android device; licenses for additional devices syncing to the same computer are available. A single license for the basic edition is $189, with bulk licensing available.

eWalk (Media-X)

Platform: Web-based, with free offline clients for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Playbook, Mac/Windows laptops, Palm, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile.
How it works: Users can collect data through web-based forms or use a handheld device to perform walkthroughs, assessments, building audits, and more. An authoring system allows users to create their own data collection templates for observations or surveys. The system includes more than 15 question types, such as rubrics, checklists, drop-downs, and a selection of pre-built counters and timers. Built-in graphs, charts, and dashboards can be updated and aggregated instantly.
Sharing: Data collection templates can be shared across an entire district or with individual schools and users. Users can attach photos as part of an observation, or attach a PDF or other files.
Customization: Yes; see above.
Cost: Varies; contact Media-X for details.

eSchool News Staff

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