Introducing Swivl, our little robot cameraman!

We’ve had a lot of interest from colleagues about our small pilot of Swivl in classrooms for adult English language learners, particularly after conversations at the global Learning and Teaching forum last month. Many wanted to know more about the technology and our experience with it, so here goes!

What is Swivl?

Swivl is a robot that swivels your iPad or iPhone intelligently to capture video as you move and talk, saves that video in your Swivl app and makes it immediately available to you online from any device.

When you log into Swivl online, you also find easy-to-use editing tools including the ability to upload your PowerPoint slides and have them play simultaneously with your video recording.

 Why were we interested in Swivl?

Well, we needed it to be easy to record a good quality video of a lesson or event.

There is significant evidence that using video for micro teaching (where teachers record and analyse one another’s lessons) is one of the most beneficial innovations teachers can implement, and videos more broadly can deliver all sorts of content to colleagues or students in a highly engaging and effective way.

Last year we noticed that many of our teachers wanted to capture and share video recordings. They wanted to make quick videos of inductions, how-to guides and professional development events. In fact, teachers wanted to record and share lessons or activities for a whole range of reasons. But the whole process of capturing videos was technical and time-consuming, so the videos just weren’t being made. In the highly demanding context of adult English language teaching, if you wanted to capture video effectively in your classroom, you needed a good camera and microphones for the teacher (and sometimes students too), and once you finish recording, had to connect those devices to a computer, download files, edit them and upload your final video onto a platform for sharing.

EFS Manager for Digital Innovation, Sue Valdeck, often stepped in to help teachers capture their lessons, but the time and resources to do this across many campuses was simply not sustainable. She asked the crucial question:

“How can we capture video without an expert in the room?”

What was the structure of our pilot project for Swivl?

After a Skype meeting with Swivl to discuss the product, Sue talked to teacher Rachael Adams about her interest in Swivl for her classes and arranged to purchase only two devices to allow for a rapid, small-scale pilot.

“In our experience, new gadgets can accumulate dust in the corner as teachers focus on the teaching and learning”, Sue said. “We didn’t want to intimidate teachers by pre-determining project outcomes to track and achieve at this point.”

With this in mind, the Swivl pilot was deliberately designed as a ‘discovery’ project, which meant putting the technology straight into classrooms to let the teacher freely explore what uses it offered. “It is much more powerful for teachers to discover for themselves and give feedback instead of having parameters set around how they are supposed to use it”, Sue said. “Projects with pre-determined outcomes make people more cautious when using the technology. But the fear factor is gone in this discovery mode; it’s another piece of furniture you can use. So, every time you talk to teachers, you come away with new ideas about how you could use Swivl.”

As the main teacher-user for the pilot, Rachael took the approach of simply modelling the use of the technology by embedding Swivl use into her daily practice. Students started grabbing the Swivl without hesitation or fear to experiment themselves. Rachael recalled how a trainee teacher who has been observing Rachael didn’t hesitate in using Swivl to record his teaching after she had been using it so frequently.

What were the outcomes of the pilot?

Filming lessons, activities or events is nothing new, but no one was really doing it. It was too hard and time-consuming and the quality of the audio was often too poor to publish.

Swivl quickly became a routine tool in Rachael’s classroom because of its ease of use. There were none of the old hindrances involved with video recordings, like having the right cables, constantly checking the video is still going or thinking about saving and uploading a big file.

Here are some of the practical ways Swivl is being used:

  1. Micro teaching: capturing parts of lessons such as warmers, activities to develop listening, reading, speaking, vocabulary and language skills, and fillers and sharing these with other teachers via social learning platforms like Fuse and Yammer.
  2. Observation: teacher observation by peers or college managers, for peer review and performance review. Swivl also allows the teacher to capture a particular part of the lesson over a few weeks to show to colleagues to help give a more holistic view of the learning sequence and development over a longer period of time.
  3. Critical reflection: We can use the Swivl to reflect on our own teaching such as teacher-talking time versus student-talking time, or to observe aspects of student behaviour such as interaction patterns.
  4. Assessment capture for evidence: students can record spoken assessment tasks for feedback from peers or teachers, either as a formative or summative assessment. Students can also record themselves in class and then play the recording with the whole class to develop feedback skills and strategy training.
  5. Mentoring: Our English language teachers regularly have trainee teachers observing them in class. We use Swivl to allow these teachers to capture their teaching moments for later reflection and portfolio evidence for their qualifications.
  6. Deliver bite-sized content to kick-off a lesson or activity: the Swivl allows teachers to produce their own content. A teacher can talk to the camera and then upload and sync PowerPoint slides, providing a good model for students of how to deliver a presentation. The Swivl app allows teachers to share the link to the video and gives students a chance to discuss features of the video content online.
  7. Flip lesson material: Students view video material outside class time to allow them full use of class time for activities that benefit from more teacher guidance and support, for example, by freeing up more time for speaking fluency practice.
  8. Provide standardised induction information: we can easily create and share induction videos and continuing professional development resources to assist with mastery learning. This format allows teachers and students to view a complex item as many times as they need to.
  9. Record case studies for action research: Swivl allows teachers to collect classroom evidence to reflect on and support hypothesis testing in action research. While we are teaching we cannot focus on all aspects of the classroom of interest but capturing video footage of the classroom space while we are teaching allows us to observe later and discover aspects of our teaching and or students’ behavior that we may have missed.

Sue attributes the success to the ‘discovery’ nature of the pilot and to working with a great advocate. Rachael’s approach of modelling the practice in her daily routine showed other teachers and students how easy and natural it could be to take a video recording. Many new opportunities are expected when the trial extends to include more teachers. Sue and Rachael hope to start bringing Swivl into other contexts more regularly, such as professional development sessions.

[This story was produced in collaboration with Georgie Lowe.]

View our infographic on the Swivl pilot or watch our short video.

Interested in trying Swivl? Read more at and attend an online demonstration at To continue the conversation, contact Sue at or get in touch on Yammer.