Cecilia Nobre, latest winner of the TeachingEnglish blog award, writes about her top tips for using video to improve skills and knowledge for more effective teaching.
Why create videos of your lessons?
Producing video can be accessible and affordable for many teachers.
If you create video of your class, you will have concrete data to reflect on, which you can use to adjust your practice if needed. You will see what learners are doing, in a way that you wouldn't see while teaching or observing. That 'extra pair of eyes' can guide you on how to approach learners' issues – especially for learners who are shy or quiet.
If you use video over time and systematically, you can compare your practice and see your improvement. You may be better able to understand and help when learners are disruptive, because you will see the events that lead up to the behaviour.
How to create videos of your lessons
You can place cameras on the edges of the classroom with a tripod, one camera in the front of the classroom facing the learners, and another camera on the opposite side of the classroom facing you.
To capture conversations, you can use simple voice recorders and place them on the tables where learners work in groups. These voice recorders don't need to be sophisticated or expensive.
Alternatively, you can use a phone's voice recorder feature.
If you teach online, the video conference platform Zoom offers a feature for recording sessions for free.
Get consent before you record lessons
If you are filming or recording audio in your classroom, adult learners and any other adult participants must sign a consent form which conforms to the data protection legislation of the country where you are working.
If children under 18 years old are in the room, their parent or guardian must sign a consent form. The parent or guardian should be encouraged to gain the child's verbal consent.
You will need the same type of consent from your learners if you record a lesson on Zoom.
Where possible, use recording devices that belong to the educational institution, rather than your own devices. This is usually an easier way to control access to the recordings you make.
The camera is your accomplice, not your enemy
Avoid saying or doing anything that will pressure people into signing the consent form. Explain why you're filming the lesson. Don't share recordings that might cause distress or embarrassment, and store the recordings safely. Tell learners that they will not be judged or confronted, and remember that yourself.
View video case studies with other teachers
Video case studies are multi-media presentations of classroom actions with analysis.
By stepping back from your own classroom in this way, you can notice what happens more clearly and apply what you have noticed to your own teaching practice. By watching with other teachers, you can find different perspectives and possible solutions to classroom issues.
You can find video case-studies on YouTube, Vimeo and the ViLTE project by the University of Warwick. If you are part of an online community of practice such as a Twitter or Facebook teachers group, you can share an interesting video you found online and open a discussion.
Choose a video with a subject or technique that you want to improve. Each time the teacher from the video uses the subject or technique, pause the video. Then, open a discussion with the other teachers in the room about how, why and when the teacher made that decision. More experienced teachers can guide their colleagues to notice and reflect.
Sandy Millin has written a blog post about videos you can watch online.
Watch, create and comment on vlogs
You can use vlogs to connect with other teachers, to ask questions and get answers related to your teaching practice. They can help you find a friendly place where teachers support each other.
You can create a vlog by recording a video using the camera of your smartphone. Keep your vlog short, because people prefer watching shorter videos online.
Choose a social media platform you're familiar with, like Instagram, Youtube or Facebook, and observe other teachers using that platform. You can search using hashtags that match your interest, eg. #teachingenglish, #grammar, #englishteacher. When you have posted your first vlog on social media, use those hashtags and invite your friends who are teachers to comment and share.
If you want to get inspired, I recommend watching Dirk Lagerwaard's vlog. Anyone can try vlogging, but it will take some time and commitment to build a following.
Take part in webinars
You can use webinars to learn new ideas for your classes, improve the ideas you already have, and find new resources.
Webinars are sources of 'bite-sized' professional development. They are usually free for participants and led by experts in their fields. You can find topics like teaching young learners or teaching business English.
It's important not just to attend it, but to interact with the teacher-host. I like to take notes on a paper notebook, take screenshots of the slides that interest me and ask questions if that's allowed. If so, the time for questions is usually at the end of the webinar. Most providers also host their webinars on a website, so you can re-watch at your convenience.
This article includes advice for using the internet in classrooms. We also recommend that teachers use the 360safe online self-review tool for a whole-school approach to online safety.