ICT - Big ideas hit the small screen

Gone are the days when a 'TV lesson' meant a class nap in front of a staid documentary. Schools are now using video technology to enhance all aspects of the curriculum, reports Jodie Collins

Jodie Collins

Using video in the classroom used to involve wheeling in the school's one working TV and video recorder, battling with the remote control and sitting a whole class down to an hour of educational programming in a darkened room.

The development of ICT systems in schools means that video technology can now be an integral part of the curriculum, having just as much relevance to the school day as textbooks and worksheets. It also has a variety of uses in the classroom: to showcase work, to develop creativity and literacy, to learn technical skills, to conduct research and as a way of assessing learning.

At South Rise Primary in Greenwich, east London, we first used video in our enrichment programme, which runs every Friday afternoon for Years 3 to 6. Experts are brought in to offer pupils a wide range of activities from taekwondo to cookery, leaving teachers the afternoon to plan together. The children are encouraged to video and photograph these sessions to capture their experiences while learning new skills about technology and creative planning in the process.

Video can enhance learning in all subjects and for all topics. In Year 5, we used video as part of a unit on Greek mythology, as the topic naturally encourages storytelling and literacy skills. After learning about mythology, we asked the children to write scripts for their own Greek myths. These scripts were then turned into films by scanning in pictures and images to create a slideshow accompanying the narrative.

The films made by the children were so impressive that we uploaded them onto YouTube (pictured, right) and the school's Virtual Learning Environment (VLE); an online portal where pupils and staff can share information and resources with others inside and outside of the school walls.

In Year 6, pupils made animation videos based on fairytales. The school was able to borrow Apple MacBooks for a week so that teams of pupils could use the I Can Animate software to recreate a well-known fairytale. The teams were challenged to make a 30-second film and the best video was also added to the school's YouTube page.

Showcasing pupils' work gives them a real sense of pride, whether this is sharing the work with other classes in the school or with parents and the wider school community. In the school foyer, we have a plasma screen on the wall that people can see as soon as they enter the school. We often put videos of the children's work up on the screen for all visitors to see, and some of them have even started to make suggestions about what they would like showcased on the television.

As well as displaying and recording pupils' work, video technology gives students an opportunity to review and analyse their achievements. For example, while we were studying performance poetry, we filmed students presenting their work. These videos were then uploaded onto the VLE for the rest of the class to review and provide feedback. This not only develops analytical and critical thinking skills, but also encourages the children to take an active part in each other's learning.

As well as engaging with the curriculum, we have also used video to get the children more active in their school community. Our Year 2 students made stop-motion videos about road safety as part of a year-group unit. The project fed into a whole-school petition to have the junction near our school made safer. The pupils planned the frames and took the pictures to make the film. These were then shown to the headteacher and governors as part of the school initiative.

Gifted children from Years 3 to 6 also videotaped various stages of a project to bid for more money to improve our playground. Although we did not win the bid, the students' footage convinced the headteacher to look at how we could adjust the budget to bring in the changes they suggested. Making videos gives children a more powerful voice in the wider school community.

Of course, the use of video in the classroom is not just limited to the creation of films. If your school does not have access to a digital camera, you can still embrace the use of video technology as a learning tool by accessing sites such as YouTube and Teachers TV. You can find a video about pretty much any classroom topic on the internet. We regularly upload videos from YouTube and Teachers TV onto our VLE to help us with work in the classroom. Each year group has its own page on the VLE and pupils can log into their group page and view a video related to something they are studying. We then include a short quiz about the video for them to complete online to test their learning and understanding of the information shown in the video.

There are many reasons for using video as opposed to more traditional sources of information such as textbooks. It is a medium that the children are very familiar with, it provides them with access to a wide range of information sources and allows pupils to assess their own learning. It is also an important media source in today's society, in which pupils have to assess and analyse video content critically.

As a teacher, I also find video a vital source of information. Videos produced by Teachers TV have really helped me over the years, whether I need ideas for use in the classroom or professional development support. The most beneficial aspect of using video as a resource is that you are able to see inside other schools and classrooms to view what really works and what does not: it enables you to learn from what your peers are doing and even share resources.

At South Rise, we do not have large amounts of expensive technology. We just have a few digital cameras, computers, passionate teachers and lots of ideas. If you have some of those things, you are well on your way to using video as a successful tool in the classroom.

l Jodie Collins is an ICT teacher at South Rise Primary School in Greenwich, East London. She won the Becta award for Next Generation Learning in London and the South East at this year's Teaching Awards

Getting the most from video

- Children generally pick up the necessary ICT skills quickly but find the planning and scripting stages harder - reflect this in your planning. Usually a balance of 75 per cent scripting to 25 per cent videotaping works well.

- Having a website page or VLE area dedicated to showcasing work provides a great incentive to pupils because it allows them to show off their work to family and friends at home and abroad.

- Make sure you check YouTube and other website videos carefully before embedding them onto your VLE and untick the option to include related videos.

- If you find a useful video on Teachers TV or elsewhere, share it with colleagues.

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Jodie Collins

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