This WEFLECT project is now completed.
It is was led by heppell.net and funded by the UK's Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA).
Technical development was the responsibility of long time collaborator Alex Blanc of Allrollover
What is this project about?
The project was conceived to engage young and newly qualified teachers NQTs) with more experienced, including retired, practitioners through placing video-streaming / recording and audio equipment in their classroom. Think of it as CPD via social media and video streaming.
The initial hypothesis was that providing a "window on the world" of their classroom, with a limited and trusted audience annotating it, offers an effective route to valued, shared, reflection and observations.
The primary aim was to provide feedback, reflection and self critique, which would enable NQTs to develop their teaching skills whilst providing a network of support.
Other central project aims:
- To examine the use of remote observation in the classroom, and the school;
- To encourage NQTs to reflect and self critique;
- To reflect on any changes in participation that the project achieves;
- To develop a cost effective solution for the streaming of classroom video and audio, for feedback and reflection;
- To build on an increasing comfort with the annotation of social media and the ubiquity of streamed video;
- To develop an understanding of what is acceptable for an audience in terms of the quality of audio and video.
Where is the project now?
Phase one ran from January to May 2010 with the focus on proof of concept.
A variety of hardware and software solutions were considered - starting initially with Twitcam, but due to the open system and the inability to provide privacy the project moved on to test and use Adobe Connect, which enabled a manageable system of privacy.
The system identified was intended to be synchronous, the video being viewed immediately by another adult (a mentor, lead teacher, trainer etc), but it was understood that the video should to be stored so that it could be viewed by the NQT at a later date. The system needed to allow for annotation of the video by both the NQT and others, allowing for a 'conversation' to take place online concerning the practice of the NQT. This was to allow for self-reflection and improved practice.
The system was tested with a number of educational practitioners, being finally placed within one school for NQTs to use.
The main challenges faced in phase 1 were;
- firewalls - which limited the ability of the system to be available on the school network;
- upload of video - school systems were very busy in the day and fears were expressed (both real and anticipanted) that limited bandwidth in the school would be 'grabbed' by the uploading of the video;
- quality of the video and audio output - seeking an affordable system for schools meant using the cheapest equipment able to do a reasonable job. Sound quality proved a difficulty, especially as teachers are not stationary in the classroom;
- willingness to participate - observation is linked with assessment and NQTs were nervous that they would be judged by their recorded lessons.
Based on feedback from participants and the challenges outlined above the hardware went through another iteration stage and was changed. The software was changed and an 'inhouse' software solution was developed. This had the added value that features requested in the first phase could be added.
Phase two completed at the end of June 2011.
A low end computer, two cameras and microphones were installed in five schools and this configuration was tested by 12 NQTs. The cost of this equipment was low enough to be affordable for all schools and the hardware could be moved from one classroom to another in roughly 30 minutes.
The software allowed NQTs to control access to each video that they recorded, enabled bookmarking of the video, and annotations by any person who had access to the video. Two simmultanous video streams allowed the viewer to see the class from two perspectives. Most importantly it allowed the NQT to remove those videos they do not wish to share as soon as they are uploaded.
To overcome bandwidth and access issues the video was streamed initially directly onto the class computer and uploaded at a "low traffic" time set by the school. This meant that the video could be uploaded to a central server when the network was least busy, removing the possibility of interupting a school network. By definition this meant that the system moved from synchronous to asychnchronous.From Phase one it was clear that some time slippage would not hurt the social interaction.
Who was involved in Phase two?
The five schools were in Essex, Kent, Lincolnshire and Befordshire. They included a primary school, a middle school and three secondary schools. In some schools more than one NQT was involved.
The NQTs in the project taught a variety of subjects (Maths, English, Science, Art) in a number of contexts (challenging schools, outstanding schools, multicultural schools, Academies) and the 12 included NQTs teaching at all stages, from foundation stage to KS4.
Some early findings are available, and the final report is here.