Last year we reviewed VEO (Video Enhanced Observations) and absolutely loved it. This birlliant app, developed out of Newcastle University, provided school leadership teams with a truly 21st Century tool to revolutionise lesson observations - a crucial part of staff professional development.
We were fortunate enough to secure an interview with Paul Miller, the man behind VEO and he shared with us the story behind the app and details on the new version that takes things to a whole other level!
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I am Co-founder and CEO of VEO: video enhanced observation. I’ve worked across several different fields, flipping between business, education and a number of countries - now I have something that nicely combines them all!
Previously, I’ve worked all-nighters in the City of London, learnt Spanish from scratch in Madrid, trained hundreds of teachers at a time in Ghana, and even drafted Honduran education laws. Learning from experience has, therefore, always been important to me - a critical factor uniting business, education, pupils and teachers.
We've championed your app VEO for some time now. For those that might not be familiar with it though, how would you sum it up?
VEO is an easy-to-use video tagging app and online sharing platform for improving professional practice. Tagging video using VEO allows convenient review and discussion of key moments in any context. Tags also generate key stats on performance, building up a picture of strengths and areas for improvement.
VEO gives real power to educators: a clear view on classroom activity provides a strong platform to improve. Teachers drive their own professional development. Importantly, the ability to share and comment on tagged video allows practitioners to learn collaboratively.
In short, VEO is an intuitive iPad app and online system, combining the power of video and data. Tags make rich video easily communicable, while the video itself, gives meaning to the data.
What led to the development of VEO? VEO originated when myself and co-founder Jon Haines got together at Newcastle University to find solutions to common problems we faced in different educational spheres.
Jon saw overbearing, ineffectual observation systems nullifying their enormous potential value for improving classroom practice. After working in UK Secondary schools for 13 years, Jon was keen to transform lesson observations into positive, developmental experiences using everyday devices.
As an Education Consultant, I was confronting the challenge of improving learning, at scale, in schools across West Africa. Differences in understanding, experience and beliefs required new approaches and solutions. Sharing video moments proved very valuable and I aimed to build an efficient system allowing practitioners to learn from each other, based on concepts behind successful social media platforms.
What was the core aim of the project?
Firstly, it was critical that VEO was something that people actually use! And secondly, that using VEO creates positive change. A great deal of work has gone into creating an intuitive design.
We felt at least 95% of teachers want to improve - it’s just that many don’t believe they can, don’t have the time, or don’t know how. Later, attending international education conferences I saw entire education systems in the same boat! Ultimately, we aimed to create a convenient, effective way for educators to communicate and improve practice at scale.
What do you feel are the key benefits that VEO can offer educators?
VEO adds another – friendly! – view on the classroom. Resulting visibility and ownership of practice is very powerful. Above all, VEO is convenient and easy to use – and it has to be, since the more teachers using it to learn from experience, the better. This, and the ability to share, means VEO can have widespread impact on teaching and learning.
How much can educators customise the app to personalise the use to their needs?
VEO’s tags are 100% customisable. This flexibility helps teachers adapt video review and reflection to fit their goals. I’ve seen great innovations from teachers using VEO, for example, gaining feedback from students on how they experience lessons.
Outside of traditional school education, we’re seeing VEO adapted for use in several practical arenas, from Paramedic training, to improving students’ presentations. Harvard University researchers are even using VEO to analyse pupil interaction in classrooms.
Were you happy with the reception that the app received? Yes, happy in two ways: firstly that the reception was overwhelmingly positive, and particularly among teachers, so we know that VEO will be used.
Secondly, that all the additional functionality people wanted was already top of our development pipeline. We’ve now rolled out the key items on the wishlist, with many more improvements soon to follow.
You've just relaunched VEO with a new app and overall structure. Tell us about the changes you've implemented.
The tags are now fully flexible so that they can be created for any educational approach or context. (Our free iPad demo app gives a flavour). This means VEO tags can cater for any educational framework or language, from Chinese to Arabic - we already have different European language versions.
Importantly, you can now upload video and tags to a personal space on the VEO portal, to review, reflect on and share practice. This provides a valuable, affordable solution for all schools, districts and educational networks to improve teaching and learning.
A colleague in Finland recently said “you’re creating a world staffroom!” and that is the dream. Why shouldn’t we learn from other teachers’ experiences and techniques, whether in Europe, the Middle East, America or Ghana?!
What about future updates? Have you got any new features planned that you can tell us about?
Absolutely – we’ve endless ideas, many contributed by our early adopters. Very soon you can to upload and tag video retrospectively, adding further flexibility. We’re also keen to work with partners to get VEO into pupils’ hands. Watch this space!
How can our readers keep up to date with what you are doing and the latest developments at VEO?
The best way to understand VEO is to download the free iPad demo app at bit.ly/AppStoreVEO.
I’m really keen to hear from people interested in VEO. It would be fantastic to transform and improve educational practice across the UAE and beyond!