On the 1st of May, I went to a short event at Highcrest Academy in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. This was a free event for teachers and staff interested in developing effective professional communities.
What is actually meant by this is creating a culture of teachers actively seeking ways to develop their teaching skills by reflecting on their own practice – with technology. Or rather, IRIS Connect video system. Now, before I go on, I need to make it perfectly clear that I am not advancing this system here for some sort of commercial gain – in fact, I don’t think anyone on the planet would ever be able to make me do that! Rather, I was genuinely impressed by the promise of this idea.
IRIS Connect, in essence, is a portable camera that schools can purchase – obviously they can purchase more than one, and they would, if they so wish. This is placed in a teacher’s classroom to film their lessons. However, before you start frowning and puffing, this is not for any sort of performance management purposes! IRIS Connect has a secure online website, where these videos can be viewed; however, it is entirely up to the teacher to decide who to share it with – and sharees, so to speak, cannot actually share it with others. In fact, a teacher might record his/her lessons just for their own benefit if they do not feel confident to share it with anyone at all – just to see themselves what their lessons look like.
This approach combines the power of technology – videoing – with putting the responsibility for improving teaching practice squarely into teachers’ own hands; without making it scary, linked to performance management scales. It is a trusting approach, which is so much needed in the times of accountability, constant observations, “Ofsteding”, “HMI-ing” and learning walks. Teachers feel under constant pressure – this allows them to learn from their past lessons without being scared that they might be punished by senior management teams.
It also has a clear capacity for community building – that is, sharing the videos with a friendly teacher, one that you trust, allowing them to watch you either online or after the lesson – is a powerful way of building improving learning culture in a school without it being a top-down approach. Video watchers are able to comment on the lessons at the precise time when they want to comment and one can skip to the portions of the lesson which the comment refers to.
The video technology itself is incredible, too! It can zoom in across several meters without losing resolution and the camera covers a very wide area, allowing it actually film pretty much the whole classroom. If you are granted access and watch a colleague’s lesson, you are able to zoom in on pretty much anything in the classroom, including a whiteboard and individual pupils’ writing books.
Even more impressive is the fact that this technology has been built on the basis of research , rather than perhaps more usual case of the other way around! Do have a look at http://www.irisconnect.co.uk/research-base to find out more!
The technology holds huge promise! Do get interested! Apparently, already over 1,000 schools in the UK use it!
IRIS Connect: http://www.irisconnect.co.uk/