Video observation and review is a relatively new concept in schools; naturally this comes with many questions from different members of the school team. Here we break down the frequently asked questions by areas of responsibility with the hope that it may help you understand the benefits of LessonVU technology.
Yes, all schools must carry out lesson observations based on the Ofsted inspection framework.
Teachers deserve great feedback and meaningful observations, yet schools face substantial logistical, financial and human challenges in providing high-quality observations.
We recommend that the teacher choose the video. In the formative review process a teacher might share a specific classroom problem, but in other cases, teachers should be able to show their best work to the Senior Leadership Team. Ensuring the teacher selects their own lesson for review means that they will have watched and reviewed a few lessons and considered what constitutes effective, evaluation-worthy teaching before choosing the one they would like to discuss.
Because we know that teachers are always very busy, the ONVU Learning system has been designed to require minimum training. We recommend that the ONVU Learning team carries out basic system familiarity with either all staff, or one member of staff who in turn will then teach the teachers. Teachers want to be assured that the solution will work without interrupting their teaching and they need to know how to access the video content for review purposes.
There are several reasons why digital video and audio observations are better:
- When the reviewing member of staff comments on aspects of the teaching activity, there is no back up if the teacher disagrees with the observation. We often hear teachers say, “but that wasn’t the point” or “no, those children didn’t do that”. Video and audio recordings help the teacher have a complete and honest review of their teaching.
- Finding time for an observer to spend time in the classroom is costly and unrealistic in busy schools.
- Recorded video allows teachers to pause, rewind, review and discuss interesting aspects of the lesson. Specific details of the lesson can be re-examined – this cannot happen through a live observer.
- There can be many important aspects of the learning activity such as the body language of the teacher, or students, that an observer at the back of the classroom wouldn’t see.
- Having an observer in the room puts the teacher and children in an unrealistic learning environment. A ceiling mounted video system (especially the LessonVU system that can run 24/7 if required and therefore doesn’t need to be switched on or off) soon becomes an invisible part of the day, making it less intrusive.
Full password protection is set up before any lessons are recorded. You, and only you, will have access to your recordings and be given full training and advice on how best to use these.
We understand that there will be times where you will want to turn off the video or audio, or both. And the simple answer is, yes, you can. We have a mobile app that you can download, and from there you can, at the push of a button, turn off the video recording, the audio recording or both.
Because we know that teachers are always very busy, the ONVU Learning system has been designed to require minimum training. LessonVU is unique in the way that it runs continuously and therefore the actual recording is virtually invisible in your class. We recommend that the ONVU Learning team carries out basic system familiarity with either all staff, or one member of staff, who will in turn teach the teachers. You want to be assured that the technology will work without interrupting your teaching and you need to know how to access the video content for review purposes.
LessonVU is a tool for your benefit. It helps you celebrate your successes and enhance aspects of your teaching that you feel require support and development. You can select which videos you want to be reviewed and then use them as a discussion point to gather ideas for refinement to make your life easier and develop your teaching effectiveness and personal career development. One common observation is that some teachers are working too hard to achieve a learning outcome that could be accomplished with a lot less effort. Ultimately, LessonVU will help you save time, enhance your teaching, develop your career, and in turn raise standards.
The answer is ‘both’. Observing recorded lessons from a self-review stance allows teachers the opportunity to notice a wide range of challenges that are otherwise difficult to perceive while teaching. However, to really drive improved standards it is important to have another member of staff or someone from the SLT to review the recorded observations at regular intervals.
The most effective evaluation comes from someone who teaches the same subject or year group. However, the right person depends on the situation of the school. In failing schools, it may be important to bring in an outside consultant to provide feedback. In good or outstanding schools, different members of staff and those from the SLT are equally capable of suggesting new, constructive ideas and celebrating successes.
We recommend that the observer initially facilitates the teacher to self-review. The teacher and observer should watch the lesson together and then the observer should ideally pose questions such as “How do you feel it went?”; “What do you think were the good parts?”; “Let’s start to look at one area for improvement. What do you think that should be?”. By carrying out reviews in this way, the teacher will feel less pressurised and will, in turn, learn best practice self-review.
As discussed above, a review can take several different formats depending on the school or teacher’s situation.
- The most common are internal one-on-one reviews; one teacher and one member of the Senior Leadership Team. We do, however, recommend that this is carried out in person rather than via written review which cannot be discussed and can be misinterpreted. Written reports also tend to come with negative connotations of being ‘assessed’ and ‘graded’. As we will explain in more detail later, it is important to remember that video observations should be positive and constructive.
- When the school is in need of transformational change (when Ofsted inspections reveal significant changes are required), an external coach may be appropriate. This can be hard when the coach doesn’t know the particulars of the teacher and class but when necessary, this is invaluable. It is important to select the right coach; they do not have to come to the school as video technology allows people in different places to collaborate in real time. Read how effective coaching helped Shavington Primary School
- Setting up a video club is another context where teachers can come together to review each other. This may happen once a month. It is commonly a time for increasingly functional conversations based on student-student, teacher-student and whole class interactions. These sessions can in turn be used as a platform for training the teachers in carrying out constructive reviews. Such regular scheduled events establish a culture of continuous improvement within the school.
Data Protection & Privacy
All recorded material will be stored in the cloud with carefully managed security. Working with you, your IT team and your senior management team, we will agree who has access to which recordings. This is a teacher’s tool and should be used to self-review and reflect. The teacher should be in control of their own lesson recordings and only the teacher will be able to share lesson recordings with colleagues, mentors or consultants for review.
This is very much a decision for you, your IT team and your school. Ideally, you will build up a library of videos to reference in the future. This is part of the consultation we offer – we will help you decide what time scale is best for you.
Technically you can store the videos as long as you like assuming your school or organisation doesn’t have a specified limit. Our advice is to use our clipping features to select which content is of value for you and give it very detailed names and descriptions so you can find it later. Then we advise you to make some internal rules to govern what is kept for how long. So, for example, recorded lessons for Teacher CPD might be kept for a term or until they have been used as desired. Records of teaching or child progress might be kept for the year and you might decide to keep exemplar lessons long term for the duration of their value to the curriculum to allow you to share them with others. Each situation or use could have a different ideal retention time.
Security & Compliance
Most schools will already have parental approval to photograph students but a school should review its policy on video use. Approval from parents may be required. It is important for parents to understand the purpose of the LessonVU system and that it is purely about teaching development and standards, and their child is not the subject of the observation. Aside from legalities, teachers should be assured that the recorded video will be securely stored and only used for the purposes that have been outlined.
LessonVU has been built and tested with security at its forefront from the ground upwards. It is important to maintain good password discipline and never share your user credentials with others. If this is maintained, then LessonVU is very secure and our auditing means access is always logged. Video content is stored securely in the gateway box or if you choose to share any content externally it is stored securely in our cloud servers which are protected by the highest level of security systems and processes, and also tested regularly. We perform extensive penetration testing of the LessonVU Cloud and Gateway systems before any updates are made, and we also schedule penetration testing quarterly. We do not advise downloading video content from LessonVU to other local storage or hard drives as it is more secure when access is closely controlled and audited on LessonVU itself. When sharing video clips, who they are being shared with should be considered and those people should be made aware of the security and password policies.
All video content is stored in its first instance on the gateway box specific to each camera and thus normally in the classroom being recorded. Access permissions to the content are clearly shown on the LessonVU platform and no other access is possible. If you move video content to the cloud, either for longer term storage or to share with people outside the school it will be stored securely on cloud servers hosted by AWS in the region closest to your location.
IT Requirements & Support
The required technology includes a 360-degree camera, a microphone and video hardware and software.
LessonVU requires minimal infrastructure. We have LessonVU units working in very remote African schools with intermittent power and no internet connection. LessonVU can work stand alone with only a standard mains plug for the gateway box; connection to the unit can be via the onboard wifi. We do recommend you add a network and internet connection (DHCP or fixed) to allow access from within your network and to facilitate the possibilities of cloud video sharing. The camera is connected to the gateway box and provided power either directly or via your comms room with a standard Cat5 or higher network cable (not provided). The microphone is connected to the gateway box with the 5m XLR cabled provided.
Once LessonVU is installed and set up as you like it, it will require little if any maintenance. The gateway box sends regular system updates telling you and the ONVU Learning support team of its status and performance. Our comprehensive support means you can feel confident that should anything go wrong we are here to help. If you do decide to move a LessonVU unit, you will need to update the LessonVU platform with the new location and if you choose to use our classroom scheduling you may need to update this.
LessonVU does not rely on remote access in any way. The LessonVU system works best when it is connected to the internet as it can send system status and maintenance information to you and us. It can also get system updates automatically. This does not send or provide any remote access to video content. Remote access to control the LessonVU gateway may occasionally be needed for support, but this can be arranged at the time. If you decide to allow access for yourself or others to specific video content from remote locations, this is completely at the video owners discretion (normally the teacher) as long as they have been given the rights to share remotely.
At ONVU Learning we believe in 100% customer satisfaction. We provide end to end support for teachers, parents, students and others consuming content and Estates and IT departments installing and managing LessonVU installations. Our dedicated support teams will help on the phone, via remote control sessions or will attend site if required. In the rare occasion of a hardware failure we will repair or replace your unit within its warranty or during your support agreement.
The LessonVU system
Read our success stories of how schools around the world are using ONVU Learning’s lesson observation and teacher reflection tools to improve their teaching standards and student outcomes.