The other day, I was invited up to Balby Car School for part of their Professional Learning Day. My interest was principally upon seeing how the school was using Iris_Connect, an innovative system for self-reflection, observation and professional development that the school had recently implemented.
Iris_Connect, for those of you not familiar with the system, is a service which supports teachers to implement reflective practice for the purpose of reviewing and improving their teaching. Using Iris, teachers can observe their own lessons or invite a colleague to observe a lesson and also add comments based upon the observation. This can be done in real time or by use of recordings. By being able to view recorded sessions, the system fress up schools from needing to arrange for observer(s) to be free at the same time as the teacher delivers the session. The flexibility of the Iris_Connect system is one of its benefits in schools along with potential cost savings.
At Balby Carr, the initiative was being led by Matthew and Lisa, two very enthusiatic teachers. They had been using the system for a while themselves and had clearly been seeing the benefits of it, they had also got a number of other staff to use the system, they too had very positive experiences of it. The Professional Learning Day was the opportunity for Matthew and Lisa to introduce the system to the wider staff and to allow them to have some experience of it. For the day, a few staff had pre-recorded lessons so that other staff could see how easy it was to observe and add comments about the lessons. The system itself is easy to use and staff were impressed that comments they made were timne-linked and so could be clearly asociated with specific points or incidencies within the lesson.
After some workgroup sessions, the staff were invited to submit their comments about Iris_Connect and how it might be used in the school. These comments were divided into ‘hot’ and ‘not’. It was very refreshing to see that the overwhelming majority of comments were in the ‘hot’ category and nearly all the ‘not’ were not really negative points but were people expressing worries or anxieties, almost all of which could be easily addressed. So overall it was a very positive ‘thumbs up’ for the Iris_Connect system.
I stated earlier on that Iris_Connect can be used for self relection or observation by others. Matthew and Lisa, very rightly in my opinion, emphasised to staff that it is probably best to start with self-observation. This is important to my mind because Iris_Connect is primarily about reflective practice; the ability of teachers to observe their own lessons or their own practice, to observe and acknowledge what went right as well as anything that may have gone wrong, with a view to strengthening their skills and improving their teaching.
I think it is also important to start with self-observation because Iris_Connect is seen primarily as a tool for teachers to use. It is important, therefore, that teachers feel comfortable in using it, feel that they own whatever product or benefit that comes from using it and feel at liberty to use the system in support of their own professional development. It is also often true that when a person first starts to use a system such as Iris_Connect to observe their own practice, they are likely to be critical of their performance; this is human nature and it is usually things we may not like that we observe first, it is only when we become used to such a system that we can start to effectively use it to observe our positive practices.
In all, I had a great and positive day at Balby Carr and I am grateful to the staff at the school for allowing me to share in their professionalism.
If you would like to know more about Iris Connect, their website is www.irisconnect.co.uk