From Victorian CSI to dancing graphs


A Victorian CSI-style crime scene, dancing graphs in maths, a virtual field trip and a cockney guide to apostrophes make up just some of the free teacher-made videos available via O2 Learn. Anna Pedroza explains.

More and more teachers are starting to use video to record individual lessons for students to watch or to create resources that they can use in class again and again. 

O2 Learn, which launched in 2011, is a free-to-use, moderated, video-sharing website which has more than 3,000 video lesson resources that have been uploaded by teachers, and more recently, by students themselves. 

O2 Learn’s ambition is to create Britain’s biggest classroom of uploaded video lessons to help connect students across the country to great teaching.

Everyone who uploads an eligible video lesson has the chance to win the weekly O2 Learn Best Lesson Award – a prize which is worth £2,000 (split between themselves and their school department). Weekly winners also have an opportunity to win one of the annual awards, worth £45,000 – see box, below right, for more information.

Getting to grips with video-making can seem like a real technical challenge, but many of the teachers who have won weekly Best Lesson Awards are self-taught and have found it a valuable skill to master. Here, we take a look at some of the winning videos so far this year. These are all free to access online.


Creating a CSI-style crime scene for a Victorian murder gave Jon Tyler, head of history at Denstone College in Staffordshire, the inspiration for his winning video. The film invites students to solve the murder of Lieutenant Bennett, who died in 1838, using the evidence provided to select from three potential suspects. Mr Tyler said: “A grisly Victorian murder really helps to engage students in history and structuring it as a CSI-style crime scene makes it entertaining and fun. Students get drawn into solving the crime and forget that they’re actually learning at the same time.”



For Sarah Imbush, head of maths at Southend High School for Girls, making her subject a dynamic, exciting subject is key to her practice. She has worked closely with her students on a range of videos involving their active participation – ranging from singing and dancing to model-making. She explained: “Maths is a very visual topic and video enables it to come alive. The topics I tackled in my videos can be hard for students to grasp and using video helps to explain concepts in stages.”


Freddy Campbell, a geography teacher at Lambrook School in Berkshire, has been interested in video since his initial teacher training but it was his students that introduced him to O2 Learn. His winning video lesson transports students to the River Nairn in Scotland where they can experience a virtual field trip about the river and its landscape. He explained: “Helping students to get a real understanding of features like rivers is incredibly hard with just text books as they often have only a handful of pictures. Using video means I can bring the whole of the River Nairn to my students right here near Ascot. Creating videos is simpler than it seems and I wish more teachers would give it a try.”


Pippa Kettle, physics teacher at Ercall Wood Technology College in Shropshire, decided to make use of her son’s Lego to create an animated film to help students understand the role of crumple zones within cars and the physics behind them. Ms Kettle, who is in her second year of teaching, found that many of her students struggled with this subject: “I decided to create a video in the hope that this would help students to understand the concept and recall it for their exams. Students learn in lots of different ways and video can really help to reach those less interested in a subject. It’s much more cool to learn from a video than to listen to me!”

Crumple zones and momentum:


Dr Richard Spencer, subject leader for biology at SRC Bede Sixth Form in Billingham, was inspired to use music to help his A level students to remember some of the more technical aspects of biology. He created a video based on the well-known song It had to be you, but with lyrics that explain the cellular process of transcription. The video helps students to remember the stages of transcription and the names of the biological molecules involved. He explained: “It can be hard for students to remember complicated biological terms but using well-known tunes to help memorise them is fun and really works. And it does seem to have a lasting effect as I’ve bumped into students I taught years ago who still remember the songs they learnt.”


Dave Shakespeare and Beth Ponsford – from the English department at the Grace Academy in Darlaston, Walsall – are on a mission to help students get to grips with using apostrophes. Their winning video features a cockney character called Terry Green who takes an engaging but no-nonsense approach to explain how, and when, to use an apostrophe. Ms Ponsford explained: “The correct use of the apostrophe is actually based on a set of easy-to-remember rules so the challenge in teaching is coming up with a way to capture students’ interest and help them to memorise the rules.” Mr Shakespeare’s previous experience in multimedia production helped the team to create a video that students would find amusing, while also helping them to learn an aspect of English grammar that many adults struggle with themselves.

Student-created lessons

O2 Learn has now opened up its competition to students as well as educators, recognising that many teachers were already working closely with students to create video lessons. 

To coincide with this, O2 Learn has also launched a film-making app for the iPhone which is free to download from the iTunes app store. The app allows teachers and students to edit film clips together, create title cards, and add an audio narration or soundtrack at the touch of a button. Once the film is complete, it can be published directly to O2 Learn.

John Hudson, a physics teacher at Burnham Grammar School in Buckinghamshire, has worked with his students to create a number of films using the app. Two are listed below. Mr Hudson said: “The whole process of filming helped them to embed their learning around the concepts they’d chosen to focus on in their films. By preparing the script each student had to understand the concept fully and be able to explain it simply. Students tend to ask other students first when they need help with a subject or concept rather than their teacher, and by explaining things in their own words they often make a concept much easier to understand.”


Get behind the camera

Every video uploaded to O2 Learn by a teacher or student has a chance of winning the weekly Best Lesson Award – worth £2,000. The prize is awarded to the most popular and effective video uploaded in a specific week.

The selection is based on a shortlist of the three videos that have been rated highest by students. A panel of judges, including headteacher Sir Mark Grundy, writer and teacher Phil Beadle, and ex-BBC education correspondent Mike Baker, review the shortlist and select the winner.

At the end of the year, the weekly winners also have a chance to win one of the annual awards – worth £45,000. The competition is open to all secondary teachers and their students. This year’s deadline is November 11. For more information, visit

Successful film-making

To help get started with film-making here are a few tips to bear in mind.

  • Make sure each scene is well lit, not backlit, and quiet, so the microphone can clearly pick up voices.

  • Start with an opening line that explains what the lesson is about.

  • Keep sentences short, all the way through.

  • Give a handy learning technique, for example an analogy, image or rhyme.

  • Use an exercise or a challenge to recap everything at the end.

  • Keep it short, aim for five minutes. If you can’t fit it all in, try splitting it into two films.

Jon Tyler, head of history at Denstone College in Staffordshire, said that more teachers should give it a go: “Making video-based resources is quite straightforward once you get the hang of it. You don’t even need a video camera, you can create a film just using images and text.”

  • Anna Pedroza works with O2 Learn to support the promotion of the initiative, in particular with winners of the weekly competitions.

CAPTION: Capturing learning: Students from Burnham Grammar School alongside their teacher John Hudson helped O2 Learn to test its new film-making app. They are pictured at the O2 Festival of Education where they showcased creating films using the app


Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Sign up SecEd Bulletin