Videoing lessons: A cheap and easy way to set up a secure lesson filming system.

OnePlus Nord. Our phone of choice

Why film lessons?

Recording videos is great, but also its totally cringe. I can vividly recall watching back my 10 minute explanation of the Bernoulli principle during my PGCE 20 years ago. The overuse of ‘yeah’ and my nervous rocking side to side.

Aside from the embarrassment, filming yourself teach is an incredibly developmental process. It allows you to honestly reflect on your teaching practice. It also allows others to coach you without being in the room. They can see what it is really like and give you detailed feedback on ways things can be improved.

The biggest worry staff often have about filming lessons is one of privacy. Being recorded is less nerve wracking if you know that the video is only visible to a small number of people and that you are in control of who you share it with. Additionally schools are often very concerned about GDPR compliance and the safeguarding ramifications of recorded images and video of students. Having ad hoc devices that do not keep their data within the schools system is a problem. 

As a CPD lead I want staff to be able access filming technology readily and easily. I want staff to be empowered to video themselves to reflect on their practice and I want to capture some of the great teaching that goes on everyday in our school. I need a system and technology that feels familiar. I also need it technophobe-proof if I want to embed it into our school culture. Afterall, saying there is variation in how well teachers adopt new technologies is a understatement!

Why not get a fancy set up?

There are a number of very clever and bespoke solutions to filming like IRIS connect, Swivl and Star Lesson. They are very good at their jobs and have teacher tracking cameras, remote mics etc, but due to that they are often expensive. My post is not an attempt to besmirch or undermine their products. I am sure they are better than what I am about to share. The difference is that the way we have set it up at our school has a number of advantages, mainly price and scalability. 

What we have come up with is a very simple and cheap solution that provides a number of bookable cameras which securely record and upload videos automatically. This is built on existing school infrastructure, in our case office365 and requires no specialist equipment.

What we did:

Bought some cheap android phones with good cameras (Personally I would recommend OnePlus Nords) for about £250 each. Did not buy any sim cards

Set up a single school account for the phones on office365 and connect them to the WiFi.

Synched to google to create a google account

Set up the phones all with the same google account

Installed OneDrive on the phones

Set up Photo upload to OneDrive by going to settings and then click on Camera Upload and find the location on your OneDrive to upload all device photos.

Shared the OneDrive location with a small group of staff responsible for teaching and learning.

This gives you a system whereby whatever video gets taken on that device automatically uploads to the SharePoint location and we can access them remotely and share with the relevant staff. The file can then be deleted from the phone at regular intervals.

If you want the phone to do some tracking of the teacher then you can get a posh gimbal stand like a DJI OM4. Personally, we went for the low tech version of a small camera stand with a phone bracket (approx. £10 on amazon and more familiar for teachers to use)

What about a booking system?

Well the account has an email address (camerabooking@…) and we get staff to book them out using outlook. They select the time and date and add an event. They include the camerabook as a required attendee and an admin person keeps track of where they are and who wants them next. The phones live in a little plastic box with the tripod and detailed instructions of how to use.

Voila! We have a simple and effective way for staff to record their lessons for a capital outlay of under £1000 with no licenses etc.. 

Impact

This is very early days for us but staff are beginning to engage and we are finding nuggets of practice we want to share wider within our school. I hope the ease of use and availability of the devices allows staff to engage with filming when they are ready. Time will tell.

FAQs

I can’t think of anything I have missed but if you have a question just comment or reply to the tweet and I will add to this section over time.

Q: What about if I use Google, not office365?

A: I am guessing its a similar system to set it up with autosynch to a GDrive location.

Q: What if someone takes the phone off site?

A: The phone has company portal installed so can be locked and wiped remotely if needed.

Q: Who can see the video I have taken?

A: In our setup there are three of us the have access to the camera roll on SharePoint. We then send out secure links to the people who want access to the file (e.g. the teacher or the ECT mentor). The file still exists on the phone so each day our admin deletes the files when the phones go on charge.

Q: How do you set up the camera?

A: We use the small tripod in the back corner of the room so it films the front of the class. The teacher switches it on when they want to and we tell the students they are being filmed but that it is for teacher training.

Q: Do I have to use new phones?

A: Not at all. Even your old phone has a decent camera. Just make sure it is factory formatted so your own data is safe. Refurbished phones rated A or above are basically brand new and a fraction of the cost.

Other options

Some other schools have used similar ideas slightly differently. Each has its own pros and cons and I will do my best to share them below.

Flying solo: If you are a classroom teacher and just want to film your own lessons then bring in an old phone and ask your IT team to put it on the school network. Remove the sim card and sign in with your school account, following the guidance above. Now any video you take will synch with your own OneDrive camera roll.

Join the Stream team: The one issue with my system is the removal of videos. If you record directly using MS Stream then no data is stored on the device. The downside is there is a small training need to get used to the MS Stream interface and the curating, processing and storing of videos is a little less intuitive. This might not be an issue for your needs, but I’m not so convinced right now.

In conclusion

This might not be a new thing. It is not something I have seen written about though so my hope is that some schools who are currently wanting to encourage filming but struggling to either find the money or deal with GDPR can use this as a possible solution. I’d love to know if you already do this or how it goes if you give it a go.

A special thanks to Nat (the genius Network Manager), Lorraine (the all-round admin whizz) and Katie (the leadership and money). Dream team!

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