News

5 things you should know about Periscope for education

By Dennis Pierce
August 31st, 2015

Pros and cons for educators considering Twitter’s new live video streaming service

periscope-classroomEver since Twitter introduced its live streaming service, Periscope, earlier this year, educators have become enamored. It’s not hard to understand why. The video app is integrated right into your Twitter account and boasts an impressive number of education applications, from broadcasting a riveting unconference discussion for a global audience to impromptu blended learning for students. But while opportunities abound, so do privacy and other concerns.

Here are five things you should know about this new technology and its implications for schools.

It’s easy to use.

On the home screen, you can see video streams from the people you follow on Periscope—and if someone is streaming live, that video feed will appear at the top. You can watch Periscoped videos live or replay them, but the video replays are only available for 24 hours before they disappear.

Anyone following you on Twitter can click on the link that’s embedded automatically in this tweet to watch your live stream. Viewers also can comment on the video stream in real time, and these comments appear as text messages on the screen.

Schools are getting creative with it.

Since Periscope launched this spring, educators have discovered tons of useful applications for the app, such as for streaming virtual field trips or for staff development.

Jerry Blumengarten, a retired New York City teacher who collects and shares information about ed-tech resources online as Cybrary Man, has created a web page devoted to Periscope’s use in education.

Blumengarten streamed a visit he made to the World Trade Center Museum through Periscope, and he said the app can be used to share similar virtual field trips with students, who can comment and ask questions of the video’s host in real time.

“I think it’s great to be able to do something like that, because many people can’t get to these locations,” he said. “Especially for kids—you’re opening new doors and taking them out of the classroom and into the world to explore. It’s extremely valuable.”

Blumengarten also noted some of the early applications for professional development, he’s seen. Recently, he said, there was a session on Periscope at a recent Edcamp he attended, and he decided to stream it with Periscope. “I had over 70 people watching it in my network all around the world and thanking me for letting them see this.”

The Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education has created the Twitter account @periscopeEDU and the hashtag #periscopeEDU for discussing and exploring educational uses of Periscope.

Program leaders also have created a Google Doc with several ideas from educators, such as having students stream “Shark Tank”-style pitches and get real-time feedback from a panel of experts online—or having them watch streams of live news events and come up with questions for the broadcaster.

Privacy is a big concern.

Andrew Campbell, a fifth grade teacher in Ontario, has been experimenting with Periscope as he tries to decide whether to use it in his classroom. One concern he has is privacy.

“Because it’s under the Twitter umbrella, all of the feeds fall under the Twitter terms of service, and so all of that video can be used by Twitter and shared with third parties for marketing purposes,” he said. “As a personal user, that’s one thing—but as an educator, you have to think carefully about how comfortable you are with sending video of your students out to be used like that.”

Periscope does include some privacy features that educators can use to protect their students. For instance, if you don’t want your location to be revealed when you begin streaming, you can turn the location sharing off. You can turn off the option to send out a tweet when you begin streaming, so your stream is limited to those who follow you on Periscope and not Twitter. You can make the live chat functionality available only to your Periscope followers, and you can make your stream available only to certain users, such as parents or administrators.

Some see Periscope videos as “disposable.”

Another issue to consider is the ephemeral nature of the video on Periscope, Campbell argued.

“It’s basically producing disposable video,” he noted. “I worry what message we’re sending when we introduce that into the classroom. Are we telling our students that their learning is disposable? If I send a student’s presentation out on Periscope, and it’s only there for 24 hours and then it’s gone, what sort of a statement does that make about what I think about that student’s presentation?”

Periscope’s supporters point out that once you finish a video stream, you can save the video to your phone and then upload it to a cloud storage service such as Dropbox or Google Drive for archiving.

It won’t be right for every situation.

As with any technology tool, it’s important to consider what you’re aiming to accomplish—and whether Periscope is the best tool for the task.

Campbell said the quality of the video can be choppy at times, compared with high-quality video streaming services such as uStream, which his school has used to stream live events in the past. For formal events such as graduation, Periscope probably isn’t the best streaming tool, he surmised.

“It seems to me that the main advantage Periscope has is that it’s very convenient,” he said. “It’s on a phone, and the bandwidth requirements for it are less, so it can be set up pretty quickly. It’s a quick and dirty way for capturing and streaming video right away.”

Similarly, Campbell isn’t sure it’s the best tool for recording classroom activities in most cases. “I’d probably just record these on my phone and then upload the video to YouTube,” he said, explaining that if something unpredictable happened, he could then edit the video or choose not to upload it.

But Periscope does hold promise as a platform for streaming or watching live events while also getting or giving real-time feedback—provided it develops a critical mass of users.

“By broadcasting something that’s happening in a classroom to a wider audience, you’re able to get some sort of interactive feedback happening in real time—which is not something that’s currently available [elsewhere],” Campbell concluded.

The former Editor in Chief of eSchool News, Dennis Pierce is now a freelance writer covering education and technology. He has been following the ed-tech space for nearly 20 years. Dennis can be reached at denniswpierce@gmail.com.