Friday, 3 December 2010

Can't take my IRIS off you... (1)

Never blogged about a single product before... so why now? My first encounter with IRIS Connect was an enthusiastic introduction from Rachel Jones of Steljes at BETT2010 and after my first real training session yesterday at a secondary school on the English/Welsh border, I'm still a massive fan. Why?

IRIS Connect is a hardware & software marry-up that really works. It permits remote monitoring and recording of classroom activity - images and sound - and either the recording of simultaneous comments (typed, via mike or web cam) or at a later time. The teacher being observed can 'self-observe' or 'be observed', but unless they give permission to record at that time then it won't happen (so no danger of surreptitious surveillance style recording).

HARDWARE: The IRIS camera is mobile so can be moved around school, needs power and a connection to the school network (most helpfully a very long network cable is supplied) and the video taken is stored initially on the network before uploading to the individual's password-protected library on the ThereNow servers. The observer can zoom in... easily distinguishing an icon on a computer desktop from across a classroom, change the camera angle or even follow a moving object or person in 'joystick' mode!

SOFTWARE: The Camera's great but the software is the real winner. In review mode typed or recorded comments are time-stamped and linked to that point on the video and there are tools that include counters and timers to measure frequencies many questions, length of time on starter etc. All reviews can be kept private or shared.

So.. 4 major plus points about this sort of remote monitoring. (there are others...)
1. A mobile camera means you don't have to take the students to the 'monitoring' more natural environment
2. Classroom evidence base not 'polluted' by the effect of a senior leader sitting in the room
3. IRIS camera not that incongruous... one teacher annoyed it wasn't the coffee-maker she thought it was...
4. non-synchronous monitoring enables the observer to manage time more effectively... and it means that you don't miss something because you're writing

Purchase system for the product means you buy the camera and then take out subscriptions for however many staff will be using it, so not impossible for smaller schools to afford. The teachers in the training session with me were great in 'taking over' with ideas related to Teaching & Learning and student assessment and SEN monitoring... so a bright future for IRIS at that school... *

*school not mentioned because it hasn't been fully introduced to staff yet... which reveals the one major issue.... the introduction of technology like this has to be managed really well...

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Blogger IRIS Connect said...

Hi Steve
Fantastic you have seen IRIS Connect in action.
You’re absolutely right about no danger of "surreptitious surveillance style recording". A key feature of IRIS Connect is its permission based. Empowering individual teachers to take control of their CPD; allowing them to observe privately or securely between colleagues. By owning your own observations in a private viewing library promotes ownership but importantly allows individuals to reflect back over time periods, categorise observations depending on objectives, assign lesson plans and teaching aids to each observation.
The introduction of IRIS Connect technology across a school has to be well managed your right! It's a disruptive technology and some teachers initially express some concern. However experience has shown us that even concerned teachers value the impact IRIS Connect has both personally and school wide. Ironically these teachers are usually the ones that become strong advocates of the system.
Maybe in the future we can team up with Tassimo (other brands are available) so we can get it to produce coffee remotely too  It’s on the R&D schedule....
It’s really refreshing for us to receive feedback from an independent so Thank You!
Given the current focus on the importance of teachers and teaching we think it’s really important that we get our head around new technology that constructively supports teachers and their practice.

Many Thanks
IRIS Connect

6 December 2010 at 15:08  

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