Iris Connect are a company of educators and technologists that are at the forefront of those trying to make video review and online coaching a reality in classrooms. For a while we have been looking for a model that would enable teachers to grow fast through stimulating different senses and sensibilities to those that get stimulated (or not) by peer observation. It remains our conviction, I think, that we have set a course for ourselves as a school that would enable us to attain levels of practice in teaching, learning, relationship and leadership that would be judged regularly as outstanding were anyone minded to comment. But this can be achieved fast or slowly, and the attraction of using video is that everyone I have ever talked to about the use of video for teaching has commented that aspects of their practice improved immediately.
Yesterday afternoon the school leadership team went to the Leadership and Training Centre at Shenley Brook End school to hear Tom Cullis and Lucie Richardson from the company demonstrate the kit and give a short presentation of the philosophy. It is attractive to me mainly because it is as far from a “big brother” approach as it is possible to be. It is rooted in a thoroughly just approach to teacher development, and one that is fully compatible with our coaching model where teachers themselves direct their own development, using what they discover as a stimulus to improvement. During the demo that Tom showed us, there was a delightful moment when one of the saved lesson videos had the title DELETE QUICKLY! It underlined the message that even if we hate the idea of being filmed (and those who rush towards it are definitely in the minority!), the very act of deleting the thing from our stored database of videos is in direct response to something we have learned! That which we hate, has taught us something already. So I welcome it and will get it for us at the latest, for the start of next year. For those teachers with a deep desire to grow rapidly, it will be a (possible) joy and a challenge to improvement. At this stage, we will use it for reflection (individual teachers working with their own material and sharing it with trusted colleagues) and I will appoint someone suitably enthusiastic to champion it in school (a couple of people spring to mind!)
In an enlightening presentation following the demonstration of the kit, Mike Fleetham plotted the trajectory of schools that use this technology and the sort of experiences that they encounter. From hastily taken notes, it looks something like this:
- Establish the technology/offer the tools for improvement to teachers
- Engage the “early adopters” – those who rush at the opportunity
- Experiment and play (the importance of play cannot be stressed enough – it is the key to engagement)
- Create coaching relationships (trios work especially well, where you are responsible for two other people’s professional development and two people are responsible for yours)
- Share short clips of the work done so far
- Engage the “late adopters” through the work of the early ones!
- Link to performance review – in Mike’s experience, this is NOT led from the leadership but in response to requests from the teachers themselves to demonstrate good evidence they have within the appraisal process.
- Establish “live coaching” – the in-ear feed and 360 degree remotely-controlled camera technology that leads to the most rapid improvements in practice
- Embed the program across the school in a sustainable way
- Train live coaches to work sensitively with other colleagues
- Address any challenges that come up.
This works best with a strong “will to improve”. As I have heard many say, from the Chris Quigley organisation, through to Andy Griffith, nothing happens to teachers without them taking the decision – an intentional one – to improve and to become outstanding teachers. Once that happens, they are pretty much unstoppable. This technology is there to speed things along a bit.
On another note, and perhaps describing growth of a much slower pace, it is a birthday of sorts today. Sometimes I have called it my “royal birthday”, because everyone should have one of those! 35 years ago today, in a small room on Staircase 9 of Exeter College in Oxford, I decided that henceforth my life would be turned over to glorifying Jesus Christ and to allowing him to transform me into his likeness and to begin the long journey into becoming a “participant in the divine nature” as the apostle Peter describes it in 2 Pet 1. So, making every effort to add to my faith all sorts of good things, as the same passage bids me, and without the use of video technology (though I know some churches that would benefit from watching films of their services), I look forward to another year of thanksgiving to the amazing King who saved and redeemed me and thus secured for me a living hope and the possibility of life in his glorious kingdom. To those – all of you – who have helped and guided me, I thank you.