Eighteen months ago, you might have occasionally used Skype to talk to family members living overseas.
You probably watched YouTube clips and perhaps used them in assemblies. But as a school leader you probably didn’t think much more about recording and sharing video. How things have changed!
I’ve used Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom to teach, to meet colleagues and to deliver and receive CPD, as well as sharing video-based content from the likes of Oak National.
I’ve been on guided video-based school tours as well as watching amazing 360-degree tours, sat on both sides of remote parents’ evenings and watched school leaders deliver parent meetings over Facebook Live. All through video.
What does the future hold? Do we go back to solely face-to-face communication as the pandemic fades?
I’d argue that the best solution, as with all types of communication, is to go with what works – as long as it is both safe and affordable!
Andrew Goff, Founder of school video specialists Just Teach and a former senior school leader, suggests schools look at three areas where video can make a real difference focussed on their school development plans – supporting teaching and learning; communicating essential information inside and outside school; and external celebration – showing off the best of the school.
Supporting teaching and learning
2021 is an exciting year for teacher development with the introduction of the Early Career Framework (ECF) across England as well as enhanced funding for teachers at other stages of their careers.
One of the key areas of focus within the ECF is the role of mentors, who will work closely with early career teachers to ensure they can quickly solve classroom-based problems.
Using video to record lessons (with the agreement of the teacher) can solve two problems that often arise with mentoring – the so-called ‘Hawthorne Effect’ where the presence of a senior teacher means that fewer problems arise; and the need for cover for lesson observations.
Other schools and trusts have been using classroom video to build up lesson banks in case of future school disruptions (even just snow days!), to share best practice across multiple schools, and to improve professional development for more experienced teachers through techniques such as Lesson Study, and to introduce new ways of teaching such as Maths Mastery (this article from classroom video specialists ONVU Learning shows how one primary school did this).
Staff and pupils in many schools have become accustomed to remote meetings and assemblies. While many will be delighted to return to face-to-face events, there are advantages to continuing to deliver them in hybrid form – not least in schools where the main hall is not large enough to accommodate all pupils! External communication is also important.
The future of parents’ evenings is perhaps the most interesting – with only 24 per cent of parents and 30 per cent of teachers wanting to go back to fully face-to-face meetings in this survey by Parent Ping and Teacher Tapp.
Every school has major events – sports days, productions, visiting assemblies – and as a parent it’s been great to experience many of them.
But it’s never possible for all parents to make all of them – let alone sharing them with wider family members and the local community, including prospective future parents. You might have created a DVD of events in the past, but these often took a long time to distribute, losing the impact.
And there are also many exciting events that haven’t ever been open to the wider community – class presentations, inter-class sports fixtures and so on.
Case study: Orwell Park School, in Suffolk, is working with Just Teach to live-stream events including cricket matches and their ‘Battle of the Bands’ – allowing parents to watch in real-time through a secure digital portal.
How do you do this?
Almost every adult now carries a video recording device (a smartphone) and free or inexpensive video-editing software and fast digital connections (either via school Wi-Fi or increasingly 5G mobile) are common. There are also more expensive alternatives that are higher-quality, easier to use or faster. The challenge for schools is finding the right solution for their needs, as well as the time and expertise to produce high-quality video in a safe way.
We look at the choices below.
Mobile phones are extremely useful for video capture but using personal equipment can breach safeguarding policies and produce variable quality footage. Alternative dedicated cameras include ‘action cameras’ such as GoPro or mirrorless cameras made by the likes of Canon or Sony. Some schools also own and fly drones such as those made by Mavic, although recent changes in legislation mean that both drones and pilots need to be licensed (see this article for the latest information). And you can also use high-quality webcams to record messages and interview people externally. Other equipment can include ‘green screens’ to record in front of (or you can just use any colour of cloth left over from a production!), as well as lights, microphones and encoders to allow live sharing. Andrew Goff argues “simplicity is important and that’s where hiring the latest equipment can make a real difference.”
Entry-level video editing software comes free with almost every device, with the best probably being iMovie on Apple Macs and iPhones. There are many free and paid-for alternatives – ranging all the way up to Final Cut Pro and Premiere Pro which are used professionally. Always look for education discounts and make use of free trials to make sure they are right for you. For streaming content publicly, it’s much easier than before to share live on YouTube or on social media such as Facebook or Twitter. It’s best to seek professional advice though if you want to set up your own secure site or make your live streams available on parent portal web pages.
The rise of 5G connection is something that excites those working in video, with the bandwidth to live-share ‘4K’ content now available in many cities. In other parts of the country, schools may still rely on broadband connection for sharing. In terms of receiving content, 97 per cent of UK adults aged 35-44 have smartphones, and during the COVID pandemic the Government distributed 1.3 million laptops and devices in England, meaning there are very few families that cannot receive content, data costs permitting.
- Policies and safeguards
Sharing video carries obvious safeguarding issues. Including identifying vulnerable children and those whose parents have not given permission for them to be filmed, and this is especially true of live-streamed content. However, these risks can be avoided through effective preparation and by using secure portals that only specific people have access to - or by recording content and then editing it for later release on open channels.
Digital skills are going to be in greater demand in the future so more schools are training pupils in using video technology – in different roles such as scripting news bulletins, filming, editing footage and presenting Take a look at Eldon Primary School in Preston or Stranton Primary School in Hartlepool.
- Identify who will benefit – teachers, pupils and parents but perhaps also prospective parents and your wider community?
- Look at what equipment and skills you already have – in your staff, pupils and parents.
- Test new equipment and software before buying – or rent the latest kit when you need it.
- Train your pupils to help – digital skills are valuable in themselves and can help with areas as wide apart as self-confidence and literacy.
- Consider live-streaming as well as recording for later – especially for keynote events that parents can’t attend – once your confidence in using video grows.
- Make sure everyone is clear on safeguarding principles - but don’t let them put you off!
- Be open to new ideas – a great way to stand out from other schools.
What will the future hold?
Technology never stands still and there are always innovative ideas for schools to explore. Taralyn Cox, Founder of 360 Marketing Lab, has been extremely busy helping schools show off their facilities during lockdown but sees a bright future focused on engaging visitors with content. For example, she’s worked with Hampton School to offer a ‘gamified’ tour – where prospective pupils gain points for finding out information about the school – ‘tell me a 10-year-old boy wouldn’t love this!’, she adds!
Advice for using video
Simon Hepburn is a teacher, marketing consultant and author of Marketing Your School.