Dear diary

Post-16 students record school life for personal CDs. Michael Shaw explains

Video diaries filmed on pocket-sized cameras are helping a special school in Hertfordshire keep track of its pupils' progress.

Post-16 students at Watling View School in St Albans have been using miniature digital cameras to record one-minute films of their work and their thoughts. The school has been experimenting with the pound;80 Intel gadgets since the start of the new year, and staff say they have become invaluable for pupils' portfolios and academic development.

Students film scenes in and outside the school, and then pass the cameras to teachers who edit the footage and play it back on interactive whiteboards to individuals or the whole class.

The videos are then recorded on to CDs which can be viewed by the pupils'

families or colleges interested in taking on a particular student. Post-16 teacher Robert Good, who has been running the project, says the video diaries are especially useful with pupils who have learning difficulties, but adds that the approach could work in mainstream schools as well.

"The videos seem to be having a huge impact because they are a great motivator, and it means pupils can look back and see how far they've come," he says.

"When students do work experience they can come back and share what they've done with the class. One of my students was stacking shelves in a supermarket, so I took a camera along and helped him film the job."

Watling View is now planning to use the video diary approach with younger students and has been sharing its findings with other special schools in Hertfordshire.

The scheme has been applauded by Professor John MacBeath of Cambridge University, who believes videos should play a greater role in school evaluation.

He says video evidence is "tremendously informative" and should replace in-class assessment by inspectors.

Although Intel has discontinued the particular cameras used at Watling View, students and staff are impressed with the technology's potential.

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