Sunday, March 3, 2013

Utilizing USTREAM for Schools

If you haven't dabbled in or don't know what it is, it's time to start.

USTREAM is the largest and most well-know live streaming platform with over 50 million monthly viewers along with a network of produced and user-generated content.  USTREAM has reshaped online media in nearly every aspect of our world.  And it's in education that USTREAM may have an unprecedented and profound impact in the future.  

What Your School Needs

A basic account, a webcam, and a computer (or now, even a mobile device) is all you need to get started -- and it is those basic tools that can open up an entirely new window into the education field.  Upload your school logo and set your USTREAM channel to private so that just your school community can access it and like magic, you have yourself a recipe for constant communication success and your own virtual television studio!

Use USTREAM for Parent Communication 

What's better than broadcasting a PTA or Parents' Association meeting to those parents that just can't make it in person?  Now you can -- and should.  At PS101Q in Forest Hills, NY, the school will regularly broadcast important parent meetings to parents and teachers who just can't physically be there in person to join in the meeting.  The school gets those parents and teachers involved by setting up a live Twitter feed during those meetings, inviting viewers to tweet in a question or comment - just like you may see on TV.  It brings the school community closer together as a result; not letting parents feel as if they missed something.  What's even better?...the school records the meetings and special events so that if you missed it altogether, you can watch it on demand any time.  

Parents love the idea as noted on the PS101Q Media Center website's USTREAM tab:
 "I am just writing to thank you for the USTREAM initiative. What a fabulous way to keep the school community current and involved. So many parents are not able to attend regular meetings and workshops due to work or other constraints, but we never have to worry about missing a thing, now." 
"I could only watch some of it, but I thought it was great. I was surprised how "live" it felt; I didn't feel that I missed anything not being in the room. I think this will be a huge help for those of us who are challenged in attending meetings. Thanks for setting this up."

Use USTREAM for Special Assembly Programs

Have you ever felt badly because a parent couldn't make it to see his or her son/daughter in the school play, or for her piano solo during the spring concert?  Or what about that do-or-die school basketball game that a few parents couldn't attend?  Well, now they can!... virtually, of course.  Set up programming for all of those special assemblies and special events and those parents who just couldn't get out of the office or who were out of town can now all of a sudden "be there" and not miss a beat.  It's a fantastic way to keep parents involved and feeling proud of their children by using the USTREAM channel that you and your school can set up...and if the technology is available to do just that, why not?!?

Use USTREAM for Teacher-Parent Communication

For the administrators out there, have your staff and teachers use USTREAM for 2-Minute Tutorials or 2-Minute Expectation Clips to communicate to parents what's being studied, how parents can help their children at home, or lesson demonstrations.  It's the perfect way to make sure that parents are in the loop - and there's nothing better than a live stream, or recorded stream to do just that (especially with the introduction to the Common Core State Standards).  Tip:  Have teachers rotate on the grade or in departments to record themselves so that parents see that there is full-staff buy-in for effective communication of the curriculum and CCSS material.

Use USTREAM for Professional Development

Think of this as the flipped-classroom for teachers for professional development purposes.  Administrators, teachers, support staff, and district support, etc., can all play a role in professional development by using your USTREAM channel.  Teachers and staff can participate in watching the videos at their leisure and in advance to important PD in order to save some time before a meeting (and it doesn't hurt to let parents at home see what work is being done to further the education of the teachers themselves).  Using USTREAM in-house can make an effective technological impression that may just get people more involved as a result.

Use USTREAM In-House for In-School Broadcasts

Use USTREAM for daily news messages from the principal....for "Friday Happy News" to end a productive showcase student artwork....for student-created Public Service Announcements....drama sporting events (both during and after school)...really, ANYTHING!  This works especially well if your school has interactive whiteboards, laptops, or even mobile devices for students and staff to access and creates a strong connection to the school community as a whole.  The added bonus side-effect: once again, parents are kept in the loop, making the school-home bond even that much stronger.  It's a win-win.

Basically, the bottom line is that paper notices that go home to celebrate successes or for informational purposes are good -- but start to broadcast and introduce an alternative form of communication and that same information (now by using USTREAM) all of a sudden takes on a whole new meaning and in a whole new dimension.  

Be warned may have one challenge if you decide to take on this initiative:  finding on-air talent that are ready, willing, and able to step in front of the camera!

What ways is your school using USTREAM?  What other suggestions for USTREAM do you have for use in schools?  Let us know by posting a comment below!

Follow Adam Hyman on Twitter @ps101hyman

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