Teachers have a knack for creating cool technology for classrooms – that's the raison d'être for 'Schooleo'
As a music teacher, James Cross used video extensively and effectively in the classroom – but he couldn't find a suitable quick and easy way to safely share it with the school community.
His frustration quickly turned into a business opportunity when he created his own safe, easy-to-use video service for schools. It just takes two clicks of a mouse for a busy teacher to upload a video to Schooleo.
Video has become an important tool for learning in schools and at home too. Young people learn how to play instruments and how to play songs from services like YouTube. The Khan Academy has even attracted the attention of education secretary and self-confessed "old fogey" Michael Gove MP. However, many schools are not completely comfortable with the open services for their own material and prefer a little more control and security. That’s where a service like Schooleo holds appeal.
“Video is an amazing learning tool,” says James Cross. “The phrase ‘extending learning’ has been used for a long time but, in many cases, schools’ online provision still revolves around Word documents and PowerPoint files sat on their virtual learning environment [VLE]. Teaching and learning is a human process – it revolves around connection, humour and pace. A PowerPoint file loses all of this, whereas digital video keeps it all. It retains what’s great about great learning.
“Many schools are starting to see the value that digital video can add to learning. Schools of every type are investing in simple, handheld video cameras. But all too often this video just sits languishing on the teacher’s hard disk or on the school’s shared drive, where no learning can happen.”
Working with a talented team of developers, James Cross created Schooleo. It’s an online platform which essentially gives schools their own private YouTube to which teachers can easily upload videos, even directly from lessons. Students log into their school’s site with their own username and password, which also allows them to access videos and comment on them in a moderated way. It's not intended to replace a school’s VLE; rather, it aims to be its "video sidekick".
Ease of use a priority for busy teachers
The key to Schooleo’s power is its ease of use, and as an Apple Distinguished Educator, James Cross should know all about that. “Teachers are busy people, and with the best will in the world, if something’s complicated then they’re just not going to get time to do it“ he explains. "Because Schooleo allows them to upload video in a few simple clicks, without having to worry about file type or size, it makes it so quick and easy for them to regularly share video content. A teacher could record a video performance on a Flip camera, plug it in, and make that video available via Schooleo straight away.”
James recognises YouTube as a great source of learning materials, but argues that schools also need a private space in which to share video content featuring students: “I love YouTube – and it’s great to see their new educational filtering option, YouTube for Schools. But YouTube still isn’t suitable for sharing videos from lessons in a safe and controlled way. It wouldn’t be appropriate to share a video of a student’s trampolining technique on YouTube, for instance – and YouTube’s commenting system just isn’t designed for school use.
“I’ve got a Twitter account, which is public – but I’ve also got a Facebook account, which only my friends can see. Schooleo allows schools to make the same distinction with their video content. They can have a YouTube channel for sharing selected videos publicly, and use YouTube for its vast library of great content, while using Schooleo as their private hub for school-based content.”
The mobile element of Schooleo is especially powerful as it allows students to safely access video from anywhere, using any modern smartphone, iPod Touch or iPad: “We know that students’ primary means of accessing the internet isn’t the trusty old home PC any more – it’s the mobile device. It’s really important that schools start to provide learning materials that are suited to mobiles, and online video is a great way of doing this.
“With Schooleo, a student could be on the bus home, watching a performance from their music lesson that morning, or a science experiment from the afternoon. They could be sat in their bedroom doing their homework, supported by a video of their teacher explaining a key concept.”
Where schools are happy for students to use mobiles for learning in the classroom, things get even more powerful. Music teachers for example, can provide ‘video scores’ of pieces, and technology teachers can provide videos that guide students through different parts of a project. When students can access these sorts of resources during lessons, it allows them to work at their own pace in a supported way. "It’s essentially like having the teacher stood next to them the whole time,” says James Cross.
Subscriptions to Schooleo are based on school size and start from £450 per year, giving schools their own private site with unlimited video uploads and views.
Requests for Schooleo information packs received before January 22 will be linked to a prize draw for a Kodak waterproof digital camera.