Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Love this VR of a classroom lesson - 7 uses that really takes you there

I received a fascinating link via Twitter from Chris Edwards, a Deputy Head in Surrey, who was interested in views on his experiment with a 360 camera and VR. In the 360 degree video, Mike Kent, a Geography teacher, delivers a great lesson and you can look round the entire room as students and teacher move around, get things done, interact with the teacher and go through a Q&A session. It is fascinating. They’re using this approach for lesson observations allowing the teacher, or their colleagues, to watch it back in full Virtual Reality. This gives the teacher a view of themselves, from the student’s point of view, as well as observe ‘everything’ that happens in the classroom. It made me think of different possibilities…..
1. Exemplar lessons
Good lessons by great teachers must surely be worth viewing by novice teachers. The rich set of processes, actions, behaviours, body language and interactions that go into a great lesson are complex, wonderfully captured in this example and could be done on any subject. A bank of such lessons would be far more useful than dry lesson plans.
2. Teacher training in school
Feedback is vital for novice teachers and this, used sensitively, is ideal for feedback from senior colleagues. As Chris says, “great to have if difficult feedback is required to be given to the teacher. Can watch it through the VR goggles and get student experience. Every nuance can be observed, replayed and used as a platform to see ourselves as others see us. Research shows that this ‘deliberate practice’ is exactly what leads to accelerated learning and improved performance.
3. Behaviour training
A bank of these, with exemplary action by experienced teachers, would be a godsend in teacher training. The immersion of VR really does make you feel as though you are actually there in the classroom – an important factor in this type of training – context and realism. I think this form of complete immersion would be wonderful for the young, fearful teacher, before entering the fray. I’d be interested in Tom Bennet’s view on this.
4. Students
I could also see this being used, sensitively, for feedback with students who have problems in classrooms, even in the presence of their parents. To be honest, I’d also love to see them used by students in revision. Some years ago, I met a teacher in Italy, Armando Pisani. He’s a high school teacher who teaches 14-18 year olds in maths and physics and is unique in that he records all of his lessons on video for later use by students. To learn efficiently and deeply, students need to be able to “review, not miss things through inattention, being distracted, illness, student absence, teacher absence or language difficulties – some students have other languages as their mother tongue”. The lack of “supply teacher availability is also a problem”. Recorded lessons give the students the ability to “catch-up and cover work not covered in a teacher’s absence”. For full analysis see here.
5. Parents
Armando Pisani achieved significant improvements in results but interestingly, he sees parents as a key driver in the use of his recorded lessons. Parents “like to see what students do during lessons” and some parents “loved the subjects when they were at school”. “I had assumed parents like it (recorded lessons) less than students but the opposite is true”. He thinks this is because parents they tend to think of it as “learning, students as  a task or work”. His view was that these recorded lessons increased parent involvement and through this, attainment.


6. Class layout
There are many ways to lay out a classroom. This technique could be used to explore the advantages and disadvantages of different layouts. You will see how it affects teaching, and be able to see student behavior as they navigate the classroom. Walls, lighting, whiteboard use – all sorts of ‘in the classroom’ things could be discussed, agreed and implemented.
7. Research
As the camera covers every angle within the classroom, it gathers a rich data set on what the teacher and all students are doing in a lesson. Break this down, correlate teacher and student interactions – lots of things can be observed with ‘real’ data. One has to take into account the ‘presence’ of the camera, but I’m sure that if it were there for some time, this could be largely discounted. This is surely a rich way to capture research data.
Conclusion

The classroom should not be a black box into which teachers retreat but an open space where teachers feel they can improve. Confidentiality is an issue but, when permissions are granted, it seems like a sensible and sustainable innovation. If I were a senior leader in a school, I’d buy tone of these now.  This tool is powerful, easy to use and cheap. 
Chris used a Bubl Camera, which cost around £600, plus a standard memory card. It is kept with IT services and can be booked out when he’s not using it. He’s also hoping to do a virtual tour of the school and next summer will be using it for visualisation periods; filming footage of within the exam hall and getting students to listen to revision footage whilst being "in the exam hall"!

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