IRIS Connect is a web based video technology which allows for reflective practice, coaching and collaboration.  Our TLC used this system to establish whether we found it to be a useful tool to enhance teaching and learning in the classroom.

flickr photo credit John Spade

IRIS connect promises much ……

“We put the power of professional development in your hands….. We help you to take greater control over your professional development, by enabling you to reflect on teaching and learning and collaborate with peers in our secure online community.

You don’t always need someone else to tell you what’s going on in your classroom. You can gain great insight by using video to observe yourself and reflect privately on teaching and learning. Having time for teacher reflection is vital for improving schools with effective teaching. IRIS Connect provides a powerful solution to the barriers that can hinder this process.”

….but would it deliver?

Research by Professor Christina Preston (found here) looks at the impact of using IRIS Connect for developing communities of practice, efficacy and collaborative CPD; and her report summarises the findings from the first phase of the research.

  • 94% of teachers actively using IRIS Connect feel there has been a positive impact on their teaching
  • 88% say their confidence has risen
  • 85% feel that there has been a positive impact on collaboration.

It is a relatively easy system to use, necessitating the booking online of the camera (which goes by the name of Lewis), which is then timely delivered and set up by the every helpful and exceptionally patient boys in IT. A simple logging in, wearing the microphone and pressing start means the camera whirrs into life. The recording of lessons can be stopped, started and replayed at any time, putting the classroom teacher in full control. The log in system allows only the teacher concerned to view the recording, unless he/she wishes to invite someone else to view it.

By filming the lesson and watching the videos back, members of our TLC group agreed that it allows an insight into things that might have been missed whilst in “the thick of it” in the classroom and provides a better understanding of the learning that has taken place in the lesson. It also allows for a general overview of student effort and behaviour. The camera was situated at the back of one classroom and provided much information on which students were off task. It also gives the opportunity to see your own performance – any little mannerisms or particular phrases you use repeatedly without being aware of it.

We found it most effective if we focussed on a certain aspect of teaching and learning. In our TLC individuals focussed on areas such as behaviour management, use of the Target Language in the classroom and monitoring group work. Lynne Coulthwaite looked at how much German she spoke in the classroom and at the response of the students to this. In turn this allowed Lynne to reflect on the times she had used English and whether this was justifiable in the circumstances or whether, in retrospect more German could have been included in the lessons.

Members of our group only used the self-reflection aspect of IRIS, which is essential for improving practice, but it would be possible to share good practice with colleagues and allow other colleagues to watch your videos and for you to watch theirs. IRIS can also be used for lesson observation from afar, so an observer can watch another teacher’s lesson via the IRIS system rather than being present in the classroom and it is also possible through an in ear device to be given comments from the observer as you teach.

As is often the case with technology we did experience a few technical hitches along the way. Occasionally the video did not record for no apparent reason and there was interference between the mike and any other sound system which meant the recording had to be halted to allow some activities to take place. However, there are ways to overcome most of the limitations we came across and, as in anything in life, practice was the key to success.

Whilst filming yourself in the classroom may not be something many people would  relish (many of our group members were very reticent) but we all found it beneficial and would encourage anyone else to try it. If you want to have a go, the camera is booked through its own online system, have a chat with Jarrod Collings and he will get you started. We also found it beneficial to book the camera for a block of time so that your students can get used to its presence in the room and eventually ignore it.