So at some point I got really annoyed at all the Greenfoot resources out there in the world. They didn’t teach anything other than how to answer a specific question in a certain style, if that changed (say, the exam board updated their spec) then the students just couldn’t achieve the same results and – worse – just had not idea why they were doing anything.

Worse, most of the resources are out of date and based on the old specification, they’re also nearly all just screen recordings of Greenfoot which, let’s be honest with ourselves, looks like 90s Java Swing just had a good day. Even the ‘official’ resources are just some dude speaking over a screen recording.

I set out to make a comprehensive set of video lessons to replace this stuff and serve as a gold standard of what I wanted to be teaching when delivering OOP to KS4. I decided that videos had to have the following characteristics:

  • Must cover the content from the 2017+ spec (current) including everything asked for in the example questions given during training events
  • Explain WHY we were building things in certain ways, or why things were happening
  • As much as possible only use native functions (unless dealing with specific exam-board implementations) so the skills learned can be reused
  • Have purpose build graphics and animations to support dual coding and explanations
  • Make it scripted so that there’s not lots of pausing for code or thinking
  • Give it a bit of personality so that it’s not the world’s most boring video course

I hope I’ve achieved that with this video set. If you’re interested in taking a look please do, you’re welcome to use them for your lessons, self study or distance learning. If you’re not as concerned about OOP as I am you can skip the first video almost entirely.

There are another few videos to add but the primary content is complete and it now works as a complete course.

I have produced a mock question paper to go along with it, as well as a starter scenario file to get you going, which you can download below.

As ever feedback is encouraged and appreciated, and if you get some mileage out of my resources I can point you to my posters if you fancy making your classroom a little brighter and supporting the site.

 

Pirate Island Worksheet

Just the PDF worksheet styled like a WJEC past paper question. Includes mark scheme on page 2.

Pirate Island Resources

A zip file containing the images needed, the greenfoot scenario folder and a copy of the worksheet. This can be distributed directly to students.

YouTube Playlist

The link to the youTube playlist that contains all of the lessons. It will be added to as new sessions are completed.

I’ve been teaching programming in Computer Science for fifteen years and I’m always looking for ways to make it better. Most recently I’ve been focussing on how students can take better notes when learning the concepts of programming through code, and I think I have a working model for note taking when dealing with code examples.

There is compelling evidence that hand-writing aids in the retention of information, so it’s important to ask students to hand write their notes when learning about a topic and programming is no exception.

After lots of versioning and trial and error I’ve come up with a two-page (or one double sided print) to support students in clear and useful note taking when learning code.

The front of the sheet is designed for notation of code samples and includes:

  • 18 code lines with indentation guides to support the syntax of Python and Pseudo as well as properly formatted code in other languages
  • Line-by-line annotation to encourage clear, descriptive explanations of code blocks
  • Topic, Concept, Filename, ELI5 (explain like I’m five) and Keywords boxes to encourage students to think about and explain what they’ve learned.
  • RAG rating for instant access to levels of understanding

The back is set up for further analysis, including:

  • Trace tables to dry run algorithms and code samples
  • Notes lined section for students own notes about the topics
  • Sections for Date and the Programming language to allow for searching later
  • Cheat sheet to allow students to identify key parts of code that they can reuse later
  • WWW, EBI section to allow evaluation of their practice

I’d really love to see what you can achieve by giving these a go, print them out for your students and run your programming lessons as normal – hopefully you’ll see the same sort of improvements that I am.

Go on, grab ’em – they’re free! If you want to support my work and say thanks then consider buying my classroom posters.

Download A4 PDF

Download A3 PDF

These remain the copyright of lessonhacker.com and are licensed to you for use freely in your lessons without modification. They should not be edited, remixed or reused in any other way  and are definitely not for reuse in a commercial sense without written permission.

This website has been languishing in obscurity for a while. This post marks the start of the rebuilding process and the redevelopment of the site to serve as a portal to all of the exciting pedagogical creations that we are developing.

This site was quietly retired in early 2018 due to the platform and setup being insecure enough that patching and fighting spam was becoming more frequent than actually doing anything meaningful with it, now the site has been completely redeveloped and will hopefully be more straightforward to update and maintain going forward.

Most of us teach material that will be assessed in an examination of some form or another, but upcoming changes to GCSEs mean that for all of us the focus on teaching exam technique will become more and more important.

One of the major issues that I’ve found to be holding learners back from excelling at exams is the problem with retention of information after their in-class tests: whilst they may revise and practice for the actual test, their effort in keeping that knowledge fresh or making use of the exam result after it has happened is often disappointing.

The research into how we make memories indicates that it is the process of repeating the learning that causes information to be stored in long term memory, and the practical application of this that feeds those skills into working memory. What we need to be doing then is making the grade scored for each assessment less important that what we learned about the students’ recall and use of those facts to inform both the teaching and the revision strategies.

The first thing to tackle is the initial response of students to your exam marking: for most students the only thing that really matters is seeing that grade. They instantly decide if they’re happy with it or not then completely forget about the exam content, marking it up as a success or failure and moving on. In both cases the act of reducing all that learning down to a simple binary state can mean that students simply repeat the exact process of revision for future assessments without making changes.

One method of doing this is an exam reflection activity. Still go through the questions, still hand out grades, but force the students to actually reflect on what they’ve achieved. One strategy for this is Question Level Analysis: traditionally this involves keeping a record of every mark on every question for every student and using it to inform your teaching of which subject to cover again. This tool is too detailed to be much use with students directly, what works a little better is to group the results of the questions into topics and present percentage grades for each of the topics.

Showing this data directly to the student really allows them to get an understanding for which areas of learning they succeeded in and which areas that they need to improve.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 09.10.35

This is reasonably straightforward to set up in a spreadsheet, demonstrating a simple percentage for each of the areas of learning that the exam covered. It simply allows an overview that works particularly well when used with the following sheet.

Once each exam has been sat, the results returned and you’ve gone through the questions with your group; then going through something like the sheet above will force the students to engage with that so-difficult reflection on how the exam actually went. Please don’t feel that you have to replicate the questions on this sheet by they’re a reasonable attempt (and a fourth iteration) to get students to think about how they could do better from a variety of places.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 09.11.10

Firstly, the WWW and EBI are swapped for What Went Well? And What Went Badly? – the language here is specifically chosen to have more emotional resonance with the student so that they are more likely to value the list of problems. All of this can be informed from the QLA that you have performed and allows the students to not only identify which sections they performed poorly on, but using the remainder of the questions on the page it allows them to identify why and how they can improve.

What we’re basically doing is holding the students’ hands as they move themselves through a process of self evaluation and planning the next stage of their learning.

We’re asking questions about the time they need to use, what techniques they could try, even who amongst their friends and family could help them and how – all of these are techniques that can have impact and are often not used by the weakest students.

One of the most important things at this stage is to set a date for another test on the same topics, so that students can work to a deadline with the improvements they claim to want to make. When the next test happens you can perform the same QLA and reflection activity but the important thing on the second run is to compare this achievement to their previous attempt and make the students accountable for the changes they wanted to make. Celebrate success as much as possible.

By walking the student through the model for self evaluation, self reflection and planning for improvement then students are more likely to start to internalise this process and see the benefits of it. In looking at comparison data between two groups of similar ability over two years, class A that used the traditional methods and class B who used QLA and Reflection you can see that class B had more consistent and refined improvements in their unit-to-unit scores, compared to class B who were more variable and actually seemed to get worse in their exam technique for the first three topics.

This leads me to believe that the techniques of reflection and QLA do work, they’re not quite the be-all and end-all but they do have a noticeable impact on the long term and lead to more consistent results.

This is just the data from two groups though, why not give this a try yourself and report back your findings?

Stop Getting IT Wrong!

Workshop Summary

Digital learning is not something to be scared of or to be worried about.

It’s just learning.

No one called it ‘Pen based learning’ when we moved away from slate tablets, but I’m sure there were a few people reluctant to change their ways, or that didn’t quite ‘get’ the point of pens. In any case, digital learning is here to stay and should be a part of every lesson in some form, if only because it saves you time!

What not to do

We’ve all seen the classic ‘do a PowerPoint’ lesson. *Sigh*. Yes, you know what I’m talking about; it’s the end of term, you’ve got a section of work on something researched based so you say the immortal lines, “Do a PowerPoint on it”… and four weeks later these digital natives have done two slides that make the content appear one letter at a time.

If students *are* digitial natives then should a PowerPoint take four weeks?

Life after Death by PowerPoint

There is life after death by PowerPoint, and it’s all about the amazing things you can do with digital learning. In this workshop we covered my top-tips for getting started:

1. Get over yourself – you will never be as much of an expert in the technology as a student can be because they’ve got unlimited time to learn it. You have to just plan around that and have strategies for finding out: Classroom Genius: find someone in the class who’s the ‘genius’ at the tech you’re using and get them to be the first port of call for non subject specific questions

2. The connected student – they’re being pinged all the time by Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Why not leverage the fact they’ve trained themselves to respond quickly to notifications by doing that yourself? Using a tool like edmodo to push out work and ask questions turns simple things into pings that use the same action-reward mechanism that replying to a tweet does; and most importantly, it gets things done!

3. Print on Demand – I’ve covered this in my blog, but essentially it boils down to getting custom printed exercise books so you can force student to improve skills you want them to focus on.

4. Blur your classroom – Use a VLE of some kind for taking in work (I wrote about this in the most recent Teach Secondary magazine) and then mark using your mobile device whenever you’ve got some down time. Stood outside Next waiting for your other half? Whip out that phone and mark one or two. Waiting in the car for the football crowds to let out? Your mobile is your friend for quick marking. This means that your work life balance gets much better because whilst you might be marking more often, you’re doing it in ‘dead’ time and suddenly you don’t need to sit down and mark in an evening anymore.

5. Record a learning dialogue – using many online tools it’s easy to record the feedback and conversations your having about work and display the progress over time to that tricky Ofsted lot. One piece of kit I’m enjoying at the moment is Kaizena [https://kaizena.com] which allows you to record audio annotation over a Google doc. This is the quickest marking ever because you can highlight a section, click record, then just speak your feedback. Wowzers.

6. Record everything – use the video camera in your phone (or something fancier if you have it) to record anything you think is useful, even yourself. This gives more flexibility in the type of lesson you can teach because if you spend five minutes recording yourself work through a particular exam problem then you can reshow that video almost indefinitely. Take a look at my youTube channel for some more examples of where you can take a lot of the repetition out of your teaching.

7. X-Factor your lessons – Why not use instant poll software like PollEverywhere [http://www.polleverywhere.com] to allow X-Factor style text voting in your lessons. AFL has never been so much fun. It means students can reply anonymously so closed questions work better, but it does have a free text response option which all updates live as a student texts in. Pure magic.

8. Plan for epic fails – so what’s going to happen if the computers don’t work? Make sure you’ve got a second strategy, an offline ‘go-to’ just incase because the very worst thing you can do in a lesson is wait for the IT guys to come along to fix things, you’ll lose your class’ attention almost instantly if they have any downtime, have something to do that requires dead-tree-tech so you can jump to it in an emergency. This doesn’t have to be well planned, just planned.

9. If you use new tech, use it more than once – because let’s face it. You’re probably not a Computing teacher, so if you do us a favour and teach a bit of software use then why not get a good return on your investment? Use the same tech three of four times, at least, which means that students stop asking you how to use it, and ask you what to use it *for*.

10. Sometimes you can do too much – I once had a year 13 student ask me, exasperated, if they could “just do things on paper today sir?”; so please don’t imaging that I expect every lesson to be an all singing, all dancing digital learning machine. No. What I’d like to see is more teachers using tech day-to-day and not worrying about it.

At some point we’ll forget we ever called it digital learning and find the very idea that we differentiated between eLearning and Learning as a bizzare artifact of a bygone era. When even the most old fashioned teacher in the class thinks nothing of slapping on a pair of video-recording glasses and rocking out an epic lesson.

If you’re interested in finding out more then head to my blog or read my book, which coincidentally has the same title as my workshop .

1. There is a time and effort overhead to starting anything new

So work with it. Build it into your planning and do not use the new ‘thing’ just once. It takes time for people to learn to use any new technology, so make sure that you have the time to deal with that before you expect return on your time investment.

2. Make sure that your learning content is prioritised over any cool stuff they want to do with the tech

So their brand new phone will record in 4K resolution that can only be seen by the very richest people in the world with the best TV sets. Who cares? Students who are not engaging with the learning objective as much as they could be often go off into flights of tech fancy, doing weird and wonderful things with it which look impressive, but ask yourself this – is the green screen effect they’re using really relevant to the learning you want them to achieve?

3. Get over yourself

Make peace with the fact that no matter how much of an expert in your discipline or subject, you will never be able to know everything there is to know about all the tech in the world. Even as a Computing teacher I am happy to announce that whilst I don’t know the specifics of how to use every piece of software; I can make some logical estimates of what different functions will do.

If you set the expectation that you’re all learning something cool together and that you’ll use your advanced problem solving skills to help your students out, then no one will be struggling.

4. Replace yourself

People that try out digital learning for the first time feel the pressure of being the sage on the stage more so than any other type of teacher. You have to be teacher, facilitator and tech support for your entire classroom. With this in mind why on earth are you still starting off with your didactic ten-minute scene setting exercise? Get it recorded, get it up on YouTube so that those elements of your lessons can be accessed when the students need them.

If you aim to replace yourself with technology then it frees you up to intervene and help the students that need it, when they need it most.

5. Set expectations

Especially in regards to a hand in date, digital content never quite feels ‘finished’ in the same way that three sides of A4 in your handwriting does, because we can version and edit as much as we want. Make sure students know that there’s a hard hand in date and that they have to achieve it.

6. Don’t fall for it

Don’t take any sob stories about lost memory sticks, Dogs eating hard drives or tablets computers being mistaken for actual tablets. These excuses tend to be easy to roll out, so don’t accept them. Do be fair and patient though, use the exact same expectations and chances you would with any normal piece of work.

7. Don’t use something because it is cool, use it because it is relevant

If you’re trying out a piece of software because it looks cool then chances are that the learning in the lesson becomes less about your topic and more about the software itself. That’s not to say that students don’t appreciate a little of the ‘shiny’ to get them over the barrier of using something new, but don’t rely on it as the catalyst of a fun lesson. A good teacher, with well-developed content can be augmented by shiny new tech. Shiny new tech cannot make up for poor resources, lax planning or a dud lesson.

8. Be positive about it

Okay, so a computer has died and you’ve got three students sharing a laptop. Don’t be negative about it. In the same way that’d you hate the game and not the player, you have to hate the fact things break and not the broken thing. Never whinge or moan about poor resources in front of the students because they will see your annoyance with the tech as an excuse to blame an inability to work on the rubbish tech.

9. Use the tool more than once

Whatever you do, do it more than once. If you’re going o al the fuss of teaching something new and exciting rather than relying on traditional educational resources, then at least get some longevity and return out of it. Repeat the use of the tech as much as you can and your students will impress you by showing you the variety of exciting and interesting ends they can get to with the means, if they only have time to learn how.

10. Encourage creative use of the tech

Do not reward the student who has stuck a bit of word art on a page and found some daft pictures to go on it. Reward the creative, innovative and fluent use of the tech. In the same way that you’re unmoved by a student who does the bare minimum of writing for homework, yet laud praise on the student who writes their own sonnet using a quill and ink, do not pour rewards for doing the bare minimum. If you encourage going above-and-beyond then they are more likely to do it again as they know you appreciate quality work.

Since I’ve turned to the dark side, and been developing A-Level resources for Python, I thought I’d take a stab at putting some of the more important syntax into poster form so that I can distribute them around the classroom. They cover a basic syntax of everything you’d need up to, and including, using lists as if they were arrays (I know!).

So far there are four posters, I’ve got them in my RedBubble shop if you’d like to buy them and support me. It’ll also brighten up your classroom considerably!

python-thumb-01python-thumb-03  python-thumb-02 python-thumb-04

Buy on Red Bubble Basics, Selection, Iteration, Arrays

I’m sure that some of you remember my post from last year: Print on demand for better Learning, where I explained the thinking behind my efforts to produce custom exercise books for my post-16 Computing students. Well, after a year of use and some very interesting impacts on teaching and learning we decided that it would be worth rolling a tweaked version of this out to the rest of our groups.

As such I have created a custom exercise book that both allows students to take notes in the Cornell style, as well as summarise and mark the notes; all this and target setting, planning, recording and analysis assessment have been incorporated into the exercise book. In short what we’ve got here is a generic, any-subject, any-level exercise book that focuses students and improves teaching and learning.

Please feel free to buy a copy from amazon (only £3.99) or download the PDF versions of all the files to construct your own, remembering that you must credit this site if you are using any of my materials, and then only non-commercially. Anyway, on with the blog post.

Lesson Learned from Version 1

There were a number of things we learned as a result of last year’s trial of the custom exercise books:

  1. Students needed more pages and flexibility for keeping notes
  2. Students needed simpler summaries of assessments
  3. Students needed more structure to planning and evidencing revision
  4. The self reflection and analysis contained too many similar questions
  5. A specific book per unit of work was a little too much faff
  6. We needed room to add marking comments
  7. Students needed a checklist of some kind before hand in
  8. Quality of the books needed to improve whilst cost needed to be reduced
  9. Use fewer explanatory or pre-printed pages as students just didn’t read them
  10. It needed to include the deeper questioning grid to allow use each and every lesson

Design

This year rather than do all that work in Photoshop, illustrator and Word (as I had done last year) I decided to just bite the bullet and use InDesign, I’d been teaching myself how to use it in order to write my tl;dr books so felt pretty adept at this. Using InDesign meant that much of my hard work from last year seemed a bit pointless and crazy as industry standard software is just so much more refined at doing this layout malarky.

I started with going for the biggest size that was still affordable to have printed, selecting the US Paper size which allows more room for content. Working on the cover first and following the style of before, but with more generic content: such as the blank box for lesson, name, etc. on the cover. I then added the deeper questioning grid to the back, reasoning that this on a glossy cardboard surface would allow us to use whiteboard markers on them when using the grids.

ExerciseBookGenericCover  deeperQuestioning Download the PDF

The next step was the front page, because this would be an odd page on its own I decided to use it to hold targets and summaries of assessments. This made the design choices easier and cheaper as I wasn’t wasting resources including an enormous copyright page, the page here holds potential summaries for 8 units which is more than we usually cover in one particular unit of work but allows it to be used by many different groups.

 Download the PDF

The next stage was to get into the nitty-gritty of what I wanted the note pages to look like, in using a larger size this meant that I could keep all the aspects of the previous notes pages that worked so successfully: the lines pages, the Cornell sidebars, the summary areas, date and title sections. In going that extra mile to improve this the new size actually gives us more written space than before. I added a RAG rating to each page for difficulty means that students can, at a glance, see which pages need revising more than others. The top also contains a ‘type of learning’ box so we can identify classwork, project work and homework for work scrutiny purposes. Finally there’s an area to identify if this is self, peer or teacher assessment to engage students with assessment in different ways.

At the bottom of the page we now have a finished-page checklist, so students can check they’ve done everything before they hand in a book for marking, a key for our Literacy and numeracy marking policy and areas for What-Went-Wells, Even-Better-Ifs and a response from the student. Making these a double page spread means that the space can be used more effectively.

NotePages NotePages2 Download the PDF

Rather than doing what I did last year, and trying to estimate how many pages students need per topic, I made it more generic and ‘classic exercise book’ style by sticking in 100 pages worth of this layout, plenty for any student to write notes on most subjects.

The next step was to produce the Revision planning, logging and assessment reflection pages. Again, 8 of these were added at the back in order to ensure that students could go through a complete revision exercise to practice this skill and evidence what they have done. The revision plan was split into a more specific table layout that asks the students to describe the type of revision methodology being used from our standard taxonomy, this was joined by a more generic week planner so students can demonstrate thought as to when and what they’ll revise.

Of course, once they’ve planned revision they’ll presumably go and do it. To check this a page of revision logging is presented, in a new more specific table format that once again uses the revision taxonomy to push the students to revise in an effective manner. At the end we ask the student to summarise and WWW, EBI the actual revision they’ve done so that we can review it after the exam.

Assessment reflection follows a very similar pattern to before, with fewer, more differentiated leading questions and opportunities to force students to reflect upon their achievement and produce a plan of action. Student would then be asked to fill out the overview summary at the start of the book.

AssessmentPrepLogReview AssessmentPrepLogReview2 AssessmentPrepLogReview3 Download PDF

So, one more page to go. Last year the calendar was extremely useful, but if this is to be as generic as possible and be less work to create next year then I can’t have year specific pages. In thinking this through I realised that what students really want is to be able to write down key dates rather than having an actual calendar, thus I went for a much more generic, box based design so that they can be reused year-to-year.

KeydateCalendar Download PDF

Printing

If you’ve read my previous article then you’ll know that I’ve previously used Lulu.com to print this stuff, which is great because they allow you to create projects that don’t necessarily have to be for sale everywhere and meet a load of guidelines. However, the quality of their paper is not quite as nice as that from amazon’s createspace and me being a bit of a stationery snob decided that it would be nice to have better paper for the student’s notes. This has benefits and drawbacks: the benefits being that the cost was reduced slightly, now coming in at £2.99 rather than over £3 as before, but because createspace is designed for publicly available books sold through Amazon you need to adhere to a number of guidelines in producing the document. This is the reason the phrase ‘Exercise Book’ exists on the cover as the title of the book being on the cover is a requirement of the createspace process.

However, after all that and getting the samples ordered I ended up with a beautiful exercise book that does all I wanted it to do, then we got the full order in.

IMG_3105.JPG IMG_3106.JPG IMG_3107.JPG IMG_3109.JPG IMG_3110.JPG

Is it worth it?

Well, I’d say so. The difference we saw in the quality of both notes and revision last year was astonishing; and that was with a first attempt at streamlining the process of students making notes and reflecting on assessments.

It’s got to be better than buying 50 books of lined paper and expecting the students to organise themselves. It’s got to be better than expecting students to make their own plans with no guidance. It’s got to be better than giving papers back and asking them to think about what they needed to do better.

Yes, it’s much more expensive than bog standard exercise books but the beauty of this is that with a small investment of time and a little more money you can have books that are personal and specific to the way you teach, mark and reflect.

If the time investment’s too much for you then please just buy a few copies of mine and give that a go – at £3.99 a go it’s probably not there for the hundreds of people in your KS3 classes but it’s certainly affordable for KS4/KS5. Give it a go!

If you make your own let me know how you got on, I’d love to publish other examples here.

At #TMCotham last night I delivered a very well received 5-minute presentation, all about the best investment I ever made into the teaching and learning in my department. So what was it that I spent that fateful £30 on that really changed things for us?

Amazon link to buy the glasses

What Was I Looking For?

It was about a year ago and I was looking to stock up on a few more digital cameras, because whilst it is fine and groovy to have students use their own devices to record video on; it does also flag up a few embarrassing situations when you’re trying to get that video off their device and the student’s entire photo collection is visible for a few seconds. To get around that I’ve always kept a cache of relatively inexpensive (£100) point-and-shoot cameras around, but these had been breaking and it was time to get more.

The problem is that these are actually quite a large investment of capitation if you want any more than one or two, to get five it would be the best part of £500 and the quality wouldn’t be what the students are expecting.

I’d also been waiting patiently for Google Glass to find its way to the UK. I’ve got vision with this one, imagine a future where teachers are specced out with Google Glass and student face recognition technology: imagine seeing a student in the corridor and Google Glass silently displaying an overlay of the student’s data in your eye line as you talk – the implications would be amazing!

Anyway, whilst searching Amazon for cameras I suddenly had a bright idea and searched for ‘video recording glasses’.

Amazon link to buy the glasses

I immediately bought one, getting a 16gb TF card to use with it for £35 all in. This rocked. Firstly, it’s a fifth of the price of a generic, half-decent point-and-shoot digital camera, secondly it will allow for POV recording. So they took a bit of time to come but they worked wonders when they arrived. If so then I could get five of these for the price of a single point-and-shoot!

Why Care?

 

8odnv

As you can see from this sample recording GIF it works really well for getting a student to record and explain a sample of their work. This example is from a group project where I’ve asked the group leaders to go and interview the members of the group to explain what they’ve achieved, how they met the marking criteria and discussing improvements that they should be making.

That’s amazing because now when I’m marking a group project I really can just sit down with the group leader and review their footage, this gives us more opportunity to review the learning, be honest and reflective and set more exciting targets than we would otherwise. It also serves as an implicit record of the achievement of students in your lesson and we’re certainly going to be showing that to Ofsted!

It also works really nice to watch bits of this footage as a class at the end, seeing clips of a group over the six lesson project go from strength to strength is highly motivational and the students really love having an X-factor style ‘best bits’ montage at the end of a project.

No Screen = No Vanity

Have you ever sent a group of students off with a normal digital camera to record something? They’re gone for an hour and come back with five minutes of poor footage, mainly because they’re busy watching, reviewing and deleting any video that’s not Hollywood standard. They never are Hollywood standard.

That doesn’t matter to us, but to the students it’s horrific and they’ll spend hours reshooting a five minute video because someone laughed, or someone’s hair looks awful or maybe just because they aren’t happy with the way they sound.

This is a distraction to the point of the video recording task, when you use a pair of video recording glasses then students don’t get to see the footage before you do, they can’t delete anything and so what you get is a full stream of consciousness recording. Much better for most purposes.

They also work better to melt away into the background, no one’s standing around unnaturally holding a camera for all to see and act up to, someone’s just wearing slightly naff glasses and students soon forget that they’re being recorded. It’s a completely different experience and because of that I thought it might be useful elsewhere.

Lesson Observations

8odneSo we bought another one. With two at my disposal I snuck them into lesson observations, and they worked a treat. Ever tried to record a lesson observation? The students act even stranger than if there’s just a member of senior leadership in the room! Not so with our video recording glasses, and better than that you get a pupil’s eye view of the lesson so you can really see what they get up to whilst you’re running around being inspiring.

One of the things that works for us is using Final Cut Pro X on the Macs to edit these two videos into one so that you can give different pairs of the glasses to different ability students. It’s very difficult to argue against the need for differentiation by task when you see for yourself the different abilities and actions of two very different learners.

Where it works well is for observations of long lesson in departments, the batteries last about an hour and a half, good enough for most lessons. We take the footage, edit it like in the gif above and simply all sit down together and watch it back: fast forwarding, pausing and rewinding as we see fit. The important thing is the conversation, it turns a lesson observation into a real-time coaching event and you can have some fantastically productive conversations to improve teaching and learning without struggling to remember what was going on.

Summary

Video recording glasses are brilliant, because:

  • It’s a cheaper way of getting video recording into your classroom
  • The only way to watch the video is with a USB cable into your computer, so no one can delete or review the footage until you say so
  • It allows students to naturally record work and progress
  • They are much more subtle than traditional cameras and so allow observations and pupil work recording with more natural behaviour
  • Footage is high definition with great audio so we can watch it back in our teams and have useful coaching style conversations about the teaching and learning happening
  • It implicitly records pupil progress

I’d really recommend giving it a go!

I was lucky enough to be asked to discuss the topic of Coding in Schools with John Darvall on BBC Radio Bristol today, I think it nicely explains the importance of coding whilst contextualising it in the continuum of learning.

If you’d like to listen you can either go to the BBC iPlayer (within 7 days) and fast forward to about 2hrs 37minutes, or download the MP3 recording of my appearance.

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