If you have never heard of IRIS, you can check it out here. It is a brilliant tool for self evaluation, general observations, sharing good practice and mentoring (to name but a few ideas).

 Observing Yourself

If you have decided to review your own practice using Iris, I can tell you from personal experience, the first time you watch yourself in your full teaching glory, you may see nothing more than a fat person who talks funny. It can be difficult to get over the cringe factor but once you do, it is such a practice changing experience that you will be pleased that you did.

 Get Organised

I recommend that you book the camera well in advance so that you can find a slot to keep it in your room for at least a couple of days; a full week is better. It is important that you see yourself as you naturally are if you want to realistically review your progress.

Do not plan any more or any less than you ordinarily would into your lessons and be safe in the knowledge that IRIS will only allow you to let others view your footage if you allow them to do so.  Use the calendar located in observations to find a free week and book yourself in.


Allow the first few lessons for pupils to get used to the camera’s presence. They will wave at it and pull faces to begin with; let them, it is natural for them to be curious and they are bound to be feeling nervous too. I have used the camera with all ages and abilities and they all react in the same way. They also all forget that it is there soon enough and act as they would in any other lesson. This is why it is important to book it for a few days at a time when you first get started.

 The Basics

When you purchase IRIS, you receive a fully comprehensive user guide which is very easy to access; I am not going to replicate that but I will try to give you an idea of what is expected of you so that you can see how easy it is to use.

You will need a username and password to log in as it is web based. When you log in you arrive at your dashboard (see image).

Your home page

You will then need to select observations and schedule your observation times.

Before your observations begin, make sure you have already charged the microphone and have it switched on. The microphone can be hung around your neck, placed by your PC or even placed by certain pupils depending on what you are observing. It can also be moved during the lesson so that you can change your focus. It is quite powerful and can pick up sounds from a good distance.  Also make sure the camera is plugged into a power socket and a network point.

You will need to log into the observation following the same method as before and click on a button that says Begin Live Observation. From there, minimise the screen and teach as normal.

Self Assessment

Once the lesson is over, you can play it back and use a variety of tools to assess your performance. You can create your own tools depending upon the focus of your observation. Along with my Maths AST buddy, Gary Mitchelson, we have created several useful tools which can be shared with other colleagues. These include: a tool to count how many questions are being asked and what kind; a tool for assessing what AFL techniques are being used and a tool for observing who is doing the most work (teacher or pupil).

You can also add comments to the video as it plays.

The comment box is seperate from the tools and is selected using the links above

Once you have finished watching, clicking on that comment will take you back to the place where the comment was made making it easy to find key activities or talking points. This is particularly useful for mentors as the comments can be made while the footage is being filmed and if they observe a behaviour that they particularly want to return to, this is a very simple way to achieve that.


IRIS is perfect for mentors or coaches as it allows you access to the classroom without you invading the space. The mentor/ coach would set up the observation in exactly the same way as above, the difference being that they would access the lesson from a different room.

Another plus about being an observer is that you have control over the camera. Using your mouse, you can zoom in on particular pupils or pan around the room for a different view. As well as the notes, you can use the various tools during an observation too; you can agree a target and use the counters or timers to stay focussed throughout the lesson. You can communicate via an earpiece with the person being observed; however, I have not used this function yet.

 Finally Top Tips

  • The older version of IRIS saves the file to your hard drive first meaning you have to manually upload it. The positive in this is that you can also extract it and edit it externally.
  • Detach the top of the camera from the wheels and it is easier to make inconspicuous.
  • Check your sound is working before you begin the observation. To do this, you will want to schedule your observation for a few minutes before the lesson starts. If the microphone is flashing green it is on. If it is not, check the mute button inside the camera.

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