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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
New Milford High School graduation

We exist in a world where almost everything in real time is streaming online -- from concerts and sporting events to breaking world news eight time zones away. Technology has truly made the world a smaller place. Yet schools are slow to catch the technologies available for streaming, due to shrinking budgets, personnel cutbacks and training voids.

As your school lays the groundwork for the upcoming year, the adoption of live-streaming a few of your significant events might be a good topic to propose at the first Home and School Meeting this August. Highlighted below are some examples of schools that have found great success in live-streaming special events and, in turn, removing barriers to engaging families and the community.

Free and Available Tech Tools

On June 20th, New Milford High School held its annual graduation ceremony in New Milford, New Jersey. As with many graduations in June, the weather doesn't always allow for outside venues where thousands of prideful families can watch. Principal Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal on Twitter) held his graduation ceremony in the air-conditioned auditorium, while live-streaming every second for families unable to attend or as far away as the Philippines.

While Eric is a leader in the ed-tech world, live-streaming special events at schools doesn't have to be costly, nor does it require a tech guru to make it happen. UStream is a tool that provides free streaming. Streaming can take place using everything from high tech video cameras to mobile handheld phones using the free UStream app for tablets and cellphones. It takes a few minutes to set up a free account and school/class channel, but wouldn't the busy parent working out of town or the grandparents unable to attend appreciate "almost being there?"

Other special events that could be streamed for school families include Home & School Meetings, concerts, school board meetings, classroom/school newscasts and principal updates on Back to School Night. Each of these takes some thought, planning and rehearsal, but providing a live stream and differentiating for the busy schedules and diverse needs of school families will go a long way in building that ever important relationship between home and school. Family and student alumni volunteers serve as good camera technicians, and students can sometimes earn service hours for helping out at these special events.

Knapp Elementary parent & staff meeting

Credit: http://www.knappwiki.wikispaces.com


Reaching the Community

Since March 2011, K-6 Knapp Elementary School parents and staff have provided a monthly stream to its Home & School meetings. Prior to implementation, parents and staff discussed and elected to add this feature as a way of reaching out to our families. Some organizations can be fearful of providing a LIVE transparent meeting, but our parents and teachers felt that providing this option was "best for kids and best for our diverse families."

Over the last year, meeting attendance has risen from eight to ten parents who did not accurately represent school demographics to over 40 parents and teachers from all over the school's sending area. Teachers pop into the hour-long meeting to offer thanks and share ideas. Parents chime in from home in the midst of cooking dinner or doing household duties. Community members watch on to get the pulse of the school's learning community. Each of these stakeholders can log on using an Anymeeting link (another free tool, no ads) and interact in similar fashion to a webinar or online class. (Screensharing and presentation modes are also available.) Parents complete online polls, respond to and pose questions during the meeting, and feel connected even when their physical presence isn't possible due to baby-sitting, lack of vehicle or other family reasons. With the stream being held remotely, meetings can take place anywhere in the community, including venues such as local churches and mosques. (See my "Connecting" Cultures post on the Connected Principals blog.)

Like differentiating for varying student needs in the classroom, Home and School 2.0 opportunities take some extra thought, planning and practice. If we're truly invested in building a solid partnership between home and school, offering a streaming option for big events or those that require collaboration is a no-brainer.

Comments (5)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Dodie Ainslie's picture
Dodie Ainslie
Coordinator of Instruction at Vestal Central School District

We used Schooltube's livestreaming services- but they have since stopped supporting it- do you know of any livestreaming that is more secure then ustream?
We streamed some events (including having a live chickcam for 2nd grade students to watch their chickens hatch 24/7) but would like to stream the morning announcements at our middle school. In order to stream the announcements we would have to have it secure with a signin for teachers in the classrooms to sign in. Any ideas of tools for that? thanks-

Dr. Joe Mazza's picture
Dr. Joe Mazza
Leadership Innovation Manager at PennGSE
Blogger

Hi Dodie! We've used Ustream to do morning announcements as well. You can require a password for teachers to enter to keep it secure. Let me know if you receive any other ideas. We're always looking for the simplest solution in terms of planning time and access. -jm

Stormy's picture
Stormy
Network Administrator

My concern (being the Web Filter guy), is what can be found on sites like this. As usual, I will use the site's own search and type in terms like "sexy", "escort", etc. If the site doesn't have search, I go to google and type "site:ustream.tv sexy", etc to narrow google search to that site.

Unfortunately, ustream.tv and the term "escort" WILL get you quite a surprising eyeful. So maybe a 2nd grader won't think of this, but starting with middle-school they start to go looking for things they shouldn't.

So am I unfair and wrong looking for the bad stuff on otherwise good sites?

Anyway, that's my dilemma and my warning as well. Anyone using sites like this for education should at least attempt to look for the "bad" stuff on it as well and decide from there. Sadly, you can't assume everything is just "cute cats".

John R. Martinez's picture
John R. Martinez
Video Producer/ Director and Live Streaming supplier

Hi Dodie,
I know this is a dated post thread, however we provide secure streaming for schools and districts. Feel free to visit our site and contact me for any additional info. www.mylivedistrict.com
thanks,
jm

Lou Martino's picture

I was told that upstream uses alcohol in their advertising if your school signs up to use the free version??

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