Kick-starting @IRIS_Connect by @TeacherToolkit

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Kick Start Man in Suit


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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This is a blog about setting up @IRIS_Connect in your school.

I remember in 1997, using the power of a video-recorder, I first was given the opportunity to watch myself teach. It was a good 6 or 7 years later before the opportunity popped up again for me to film myself as a young middle leader. This became frequent until the costs and the technology made it time-consuming to maintain. Five years later, I then discovered IRIS Connect in 2008, via the omnipotent Teachers TV Behaviour Guru @JohnBayley1, who offered remote and in-ear coaching with me and a number of colleagues to produce a range of films for the television programme.

The opportunity to test and film myself in the classroom once more was too good an offer to pass by. It was seamless, quick, and developmental. Today, I now have the option to do this weekly. I even recall over the Christmas period, logging in to my account (securely) from home, to watch carefully, minute-by-minute, how I delivered a recent year 9 lesson. It was a true moment of reflection that we are often restricted from having the time ‘to-do in school.’

Observing yourself teach is transformational!

There are so many benefits for using video for CPD, and having now been a user of IRIS for 7 years, in this blog I offer some ways you can establish the IRIS Connect system within your school.

 Ross Morrison McGill teaching John Kelly Girls Technology CollegeAn old photo from the archives – with hair(!)

Introduce the Idea:

If teachers don’t fully understand the benefits of using IRIS Connect, or why it’s being introduced into their school, then they’re less likely to get involved. Make sure everyone is clear about your school’s aims for using IRIS Connect from the outset. This is vital. At my new school, we have a long way to go with this, due to our new building work, this has put our plans to introduce IRIS back somewhat …

Enhance Conversations with Actions:

Demonstrate how the system works to teachers. If they don’t understand the feedback or teaching practice that you’re explaining then show them. So far, I have managed to show all staff 2 or 3 clips in our weekly CPD sessions, and even further footage in one-to-one discussions. Two colleagues have been charged with IRIS and we hope that in the summer, all staff will have been introduced to the system and will have started to trial using the software and equipment.

Play with the System:

Rather than explaining what IRIS Connect is and what teachers can achieve with the system, it’s much more effective to encourage teachers to go away and have a go with it for themselves.

Having ‘playtime’ with IRIS Connect either individually, in pairs, triads or groups, can help teachers get used to the system and reassure any worries they might have about using video or seeing themselves on camera.

Spread the Word:

Once your school has a few teachers who are happy with IRIS Connect, encourage them to show others how they are using the system, especially any teachers who were perhaps more reluctant at the start. A powerful way to introduce IRIS Connect to new teachers is through spreading positive testimonies and tips.

Instead of coming from the headteacher, your teachers telling each other about IRIS Connect means that the message about what the system really is becomes clear. After all, it’s a development tool for teachers to use to help improve their own practice and not a method of controlling or judging teaching.

iris Connect Observations

Establish a Learning Cycle:

It’s important that teachers understand that to improve, they first need to know what they do. Acknowledging strengths can sometimes be harder than identifying weakness. If you can show teachers that using IRIS Connect to record their lessons allows them to gain a complete picture of what they do well, whilst also recognising any areas that have room for improvement, this can be the tipping point for all teachers to ‘become even better.’

Encourage Competitiveness:

You could set IRIS Connect up in your school by encouraging some light competitiveness, perhaps sharing which teacher or department has used IRIS Connect most in one particular week or month. This can appeal to your teachers’ competitive natures and encourage them to use the system more frequently. I know Matt McDonald at Balby Carr Community Academy has been particularly outstanding at delivering this model and sharing this type of information with others. You can watch some of their staff testimonials here.


Shout out by clicking this link

Boy making a funny face

Image: DavidCoethica

Shout … about the power of sharing and collaboration. The IRIS Connect system allows your school to build libraries of best practice clips. These can be used as good examples for NQTs or for any teachers who just want to see an instance of good practice in a particular area. Encourage teachers who excel in a certain aspect of their teaching to share their videos with the rest of the school, this will build their confidence in their ability, as well as providing a useful resource for their peers.

For more ideas on how to introduce the IRIS Connect system within your school, have a read of these 5 tips for successfully introducing video CPD. You can also make sure you and your colleagues get the most out of the technology, using the Teaching is Learning (TisL) programme to support its use in your school. There is an excellent document here; ‘How to Identify your Pathfinders’ to encourage departments to self-curate their own agenda.

Pathfinders IRIS COnnect

In the lesson:

You can also view a 3 minute video of my own below. The context of this class, is that they have just started a small group activity to construct a small item to wear from an A4 piece of aluminium. This is a gentle introduction into the properties of non-ferrous and ferrous metals. This is so that they can understand the constraints of the materials when designing body adornment ideas, leading onto form their own practical work from a range of metals.

This will be the students’ last technology ‘experience’ in the subject before they continue with their option choices in year 10. This is lesson 4 on a Monday, just before lunch. The time allocated for the practical activity is about to come to an end – they have had 3 minutes in total – and before I lead into the feedback session, I attempt to address a student eating chewing gum in the classroom. We are approximately 10 minutes into the lesson.

This is a small snippet of how teacher’s could manage low-level behaviour, keeping in check with school expectations and the behaviour policy. You can analyse (2m 07 secs) my body posture; continual finger pointing to gesture the location of the bin; my continued conversation with the class, to detract focus from the student. All these small observations can be logged by the teacher (in hindsight) or by the observer watching the live footage …

Reflection Questions for Observations:

Some of the following questions can be added onto a template (within IRIS) to be used for observation prompts for the (online) observer;


  1. Do you consistently have high expectations for all students?
  2. Is intervention sharply focused and matched to need?
  3. Do you create clever transitions between tasks?
  4. How do you know when to speak and when to pause?
  5. How do you continue the lesson without creating a further focus on primary behaviour?
  6. How do you use body language; hand signals and position to follow-up instruction?
  7. How does the teacher gently use physical gestures to encourage students to engage?


  1. Is the first hint of off-task behaviour dealt with?
  2. How do you approach eating in class?
  3. Is any form of teacher-reprimand escalated by other students in the class?
  4. Is your approach to behaviour management consistent and systematic?

Attitudes to Learning:

  1. Do students demonstrate high levels of engagement, courtesy, collaboration and cooperation?
  2. Is praise genuine and purposeful?
  3. Are students given independence and responsibility?
  4. Does learning proceed without interruption?

Related: Here is a blog which looks at the video footage in much more detail –  Lesson Reflection and Review – with a video snippet.

If you think that IRIS Connect has transformed your own teaching, click this link.


17 thoughts on “Kick-starting @IRIS_Connect by @TeacherToolkit

  1. Lots of potential but as I understand it, it’s not cheap, running into many £,000. We have 2 units in school. One only works correctly when connected to the school network, via hardwire. Most classrooms don’t have a hardwire network point. The second method runs on an ipod and I’m told that the network takes over an hour to upload an hour lesson, therefore taking the system out of use while that happens. Battery charging means that realistically this method can only be used once per day. I’ve used it myself and can see lots of potential but practicalities make it difficult for whole school use at present.

    1. I agree. Costs can escalate. Large output initially, but large investment over time. It’s a matter of, can the technology support and develop the needs of T&L; and keep up with the needs of individual teachers, whilst not impacting on time etc.

    2. Hi there, would you like our support team to get in touch? There’s been a number of updates that should make things easier for you. Many schools with a good network are able to use the LiveView wirelessly now. There’s also been some updates to the Discovery Kit so that videos upload in the background whilst you record a new reflection, plus improvements to battery life. Happy to get someone to call or email if you’d like more info? Or you can call our support team on 0333 136 2483.

      We’ve got some very exciting updates in our new platform coming next week…so if you’re not on the new one then it’s worth requesting to be migrated over asap ( so you can have a go with the new tools!

    3. Many schools are now upgrading their video capture systems to www.
      It’s easy to set up and use for teacher training. It can also create video lessons for flipped classrooms. With 3 million users it’s the most popular system around for recording lessons. Schools can also allow students to log on and watch lessons for revision.
      Any camera including liveview and ipads can be connected even Low cost webcams can be used. Give me a call if you would like a demo, trial or a lesson recorded at your school. 01793 978785

  2. Reblogged this on All Education Matters and commented:

    WOW! This looks so awesome as a tool for improving teaching and learning and building a growth mindset/learning community within a school. Scary at first but I think it really could be transformational.

    When I was at university we had to record ourselves teaching and then watch and reflect on the lesson, with our peers. It certainly helped me to see lots of things I was doing from a very different perspective. It was also amazing to reflect after a period of time, but while still being able to have the reality of the lesson fresh in memory – right in front of you!

    I don’t know of anything like this in Australia but surely something exits… Does anyone have experience using video as a method of professional development in schools? Or know of similar programs?

  3. I think this is a horrific idea. It will only cause people to feel under pressure and increase stress levels. Some people just don’t like being in front of a camera, and they shouldn’t feel pressured to be (which is what will happen if schools buy into this, regardless of whether the SLTs say it’s optional or not). If teachers want to watch themselves teach, they can film themselves on their own devices and either self-reflect or share with a friendly colleague. The whole idea of having cameras and microphones set up is just horrendous – it’s called Iris for goodness’ sake! If you have to keep reassuring people that something is positive and ‘not surveillence’ then there is an issue with it in the first place. Also, what is the point of all the expense for something that teachers can just do themselves anyway. A better, cheaper, more productive exercise might be to get teachers to film themselves teach on their own devices, play it back and self-reflect. Then, if they feel comfortable doing so, to watch it again with a friendly colleague.

    Teachers are under so much scrutiny as it is. Yes, we must always be improving our practice and, yes, self-evaluation is undoubtedly one of the most important ways to do this, but there are also huge issues in the profession with workload and stress. No matter how this is ‘sold’ as you suggest, it is going to make some people uncomfortable and stressed, and for what? It is best to encourage people gently to review their own practice in a way that isn’t threatening. Buying in expensive surveillence camera systems and saying that it won’t be used as surveillence is not the right way. Despite clear guidelines, there will undoubtedly be some schools that will put a huge amount of pressure on staff to record and share every lesson, making many people stressed and anxious. Just let teachers focus on improving their own practice their own way – give them options, but don’t buy in expensive systems that will impose on them things that make them feel uncomfortable.

  4. Pingback: A Coaching Model

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