Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why I Stream Video


Forgive me if the video is down. I try to keep it running 24/7, but computers are not always so kind.

Ever since I started streaming video of my classroom at Mr C's Class Blog using Ustream, people have asked me why. It really started as a lark. I was in another teacher's room helping her with a tech problem when I saw a internet cam sitting in her drawer. I asked her what she was using it for and she told me that she had it because of a satellite class that was supposed to be held in her room, but had been cancelled. I asked her if I could borrow it and she told me I could have it. I skipped back to me room wondering how I could use my new toy.

After I got it up and running, which took considerable effort because I didn't have any software to install so I had to find some streaming software to use, I showed my class that I could stream video. At the time it was simply something new and interesting to share with my class.

After hearing about two streaming services on a Leo Laporte podcast I decided to check them out. I looked at Ustream.tv and Stickam.com. I thought they both looked really complicated, but finally chose Ustream because it seemed a little easier to figure out. (I think it still is easier, although Stickam has some compelling tools that you can use too.)

After messing around with Ustream I discovered I could record video. Now I can see a reason to use the webcam, I can record stuff we do in class for the blog. I really like the idea of digital records for my students. Unfortunately, I discovered a big problem. The web cam did not have a built in microphone. So, I can record video, but I can't record audio. Once again I ran into a roadblock.

A few weeks passed and I put making video's out of my mind. Soon I received a digital camera that could take video (lousy video) that I could use so I now had no reason to use the web cam.

I don't really know what really made me think of doing the live stream all the time, It may have had something to do with watching videos of Steve Spangler doing science experiments. Surely watching Chris Pirillo taking skype calls on his net show was part of it. I know some of the seeds were planted when I read Friedman's The World is Flat and I realized my students needed to think more globally.

Finally, a real reason to stream from my classroom started to form. I wanted to share my classroom with people outside of my school. I wanted my students to show what they were doing to anyone that wanted to see. I wanted a connection to form between my students and the world.

The obvious audience for the stream would be my students' parents. Unfortunately, most of my them don't have access to computers on the internet. My video stream to this day is still more likely to be seen by someone outside of the United States than by a parent of one of my students. That is the reality I face.

What does streaming mean for my class? It is a constant reminder that our world does not end at our city limits. It is the means by which my students come to realize our world is literally an internet connection away. It is my way of showing my students they can be more than what my town can offer.

This was originally posted at Reflections on Teaching in 2.0

Post Script: I wrote this post over a year ago, and some things have changed. I have two web cams running, one in my classroom and one in the fifth grade computer lab. Mr. McClung, @jkmcclung, the sixth grade science teacher in my building is running a web cam in his classroom too. I am even contemplating adding streaming audio next year!

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