Monday, March 30, 2015

Periscope For Education, Part II

Yesterday, I wrote about this new app called Periscope (Periscope For Education?).  I experimented with a few broadcasts today during school trying to determine if it had a place in education.  I believe it has the potential to be a very powerful learning tool, but at the same time, inappropriate comments that show up on the screen made it too big of a risk.  Or so I thought.

I filmed a few minutes of a 6th Grade Math class that uses individual pathways for student learning.  I had some educators interact with me, no inappropriate comments were made and I think a few educators got an idea or two from watching.

Sure this could be leveraged as a PD tool, and that would be a great benefit, but I still thought there could be more.  For example, last night I was watching someone stream live video from the WTC Memorial in New York.  How cool would that be to show your kids in class?  The problem was that someone decided to make a racist comment to which the person videotaping made a verbal comment back.  An unbelievable learning opportunity for our kids, poof, gone.

But as my man Lee Corso from ESPN would say, "Not so fast my friend."  Periscope allows you to hide the comments of a video.  When you click on a video, and as it is loading, swipe up, and there is an option that says "hide comments."  Click on that and poof, all of the comments, inappropriate or not, will disappear.  One problem solved.  However that will not do anything to prevent the person who is broadcasting from verbally responding to the comments on the live stream.  To solve this problem, simply mute the volume.

In my opinion, the power of this app is the video and images it provides.  Sure the commentary by the broadcaster is an added bonus, but not a necessity.  I do not need the broadcaster to explain what is going on, I as the teacher can do that.  And sometimes, there is no commentary needed.

The safest bet would be to use broadcasts that are saved and not live, because you never know what images could appear on a live video stream.  If you have previewed the video, you can use this app to take your kids to places they never thought they could see.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Periscope For Education?

Periscope screenshot of a tour of La Jolla, California
I am writing this post because I need some help.  I know, not the first time those words have come out of my mouth.  I stumbled upon this new app called Periscope and was blown away.  The first thought that entered my mind was "How can I use this as a learning tool?"

If you are unfamiliar with Periscope, it allows you to watch live video of people from all over the world.  This morning, I watched someone give a tour of the Red Sea, a neighborhood stroll in Los Angeles and the Upper East Side, a walk through the rainy streets of Hamburg, Germany, and a lot of refrigerators (it's a Periscope joke that I still do not get).

The interaction a viewer can have with the person broadcasting is what makes this such a powerful and such a scary tool.  I could ask the person a question via a written comment.  The ability to interact increased the learning possibilities.  At the same time, I witnessed many people commenting inappropriately simply because they could.  Comments that would certainly not be appropriate if they were projected on a screen in front of a classroom full of kids.

So what is the workaround?  While my initial thought would be to show a video from someone I know and trust, that would not prevent others from commenting inappropriately.  If I want to make it private, why not just use Skype or Google Hangouts?  Again, I do not have the answer, that's why I'm asking.  This seems too powerful to just toss aside.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Helping Those Who Can Do Nothing For You

Tom Ryan and the Ohio State Buckeyes won the NCAA Wrestling Championship this past weekend, the first team title in the program's history.  I have lived in Ohio for the better part of 20 years, but grew up in Pennsylvania, and because of family ties, have been a devoted Notre Dame fan my entire life.  I am one of the few people in Ohio who is not a die hard Buckeye fan (if you've been to Ohio you know I am not exaggerating). However, I am a fan of the Ohio State Wrestling program because I am a huge fan of their head coach, Tom Ryan.

Several years ago, when I was coaching wrestling, there was a young boy in our youth program who suffered a very serious injury on his farm.  The wrestling community is very tight knit and I immediately began sending emails to various college coaches to see if they could send this young man a t-shirt, poster, or just a note of encouragement.  I cannot think of anyone who did not respond affirming they would send something.

My interaction with Tom Ryan was far different.  Five minutes after I had hit send, I had a response from the head coach of the Buckeyes.  Here was his response, "Ryan, here is my cell phone number, call me." Not "Hey send me an email with more details" or "Give my secretary a call."  Rather, "Call me."

The next day, Tom Ryan, assistant coach Lou Rosselli and defending NCAA champion J. Jaggers all went to Nationwide Children's Hospital to spend some time with this kid, a kid they had never met, a kid whose only tie to them was the sport of wrestling.  If you are not from Ohio or familiar with wrestling, this would be like Bill Belichick bringing Tom Brady.

National Titles do not happen by luck or come easy.  Almost always, the team has a great leader and one of the traits of a great leader is the amazing way they treat people who can never do anything for them in return.  There was nothing I could do at that time that was going to be of any benefit to Tom Ryan or the Ohio State wrestling program.  Yet he and two others from his program spent some time with a kid because it was the right thing to do.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

You'll Never Know Your Impact

Tonight was the state finals of the Ohio State Wrestling Tournament, an event I look forward to each year. On this weekend, several of my former wrestlers come up for the day for a mini reunion.  Tonight was extra special because it marked the 10th anniversary of coaching my first state champion, and even more, that school had a kid win a state title.  The first in 10 years.

I don't just look forward to this weekend to watch great wrestling, but rather to have great conversations  with my former wrestlers and students who are now successful adults.  It is great to hear how they are doing in the real world.

Today, one of my former wrestlers told me how much he appreciated me pulling him aside to talk to him at great length about a problem he was having in his personal life when he was in high school.  Here's the thing.  I had no recollection of that conversation.  I'm not doubting it happened, I just do not remember.  He did.  I guess that only reinforces the importance of what we do as educators, both good and bad.  You never know when a simple interaction, good or bad, may have a significant impact on your students.  It may be the biggest thing in their life but one of 100 things you are dealing with as an educator.  However the way you handle it will be the most important thing for that particular kid.  So a simple conversation may have a significant impact on a kid.

So in an age where people love to bash educators, paint them as horrible people, just remember, you have no idea of how much of an impact you are making on these kids.  Make sure that impact is a positive one.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Do You Have 13 Minutes For Your Families?

We do a weekly video newsletter at my school.  No one was reading my paper newsletter, and they were not reading it went I sent it by email either.  How do I know this?  Parents actually told me this.  I spent at least an hour typing and editing and formatting and all of those other things you do to make a newsletter look great.  I was doing it because that is what has always been done.  That was what was expected.

I could not get over the fact that I was essentially wasting an hour producing something that no one was consuming.  Well the garbage cans were consuming them and so were the bottoms of lockers.  About two years ago I decided to change the medium of my newsletter.  It was time for the Video Newsletter.

Each week, several students and I shoot a video newsletter.  It is usually between 2-3 minutes in length.  As I am walking around the building, I take some photos, and use iMovie to put it all together.

I am frequently asked the following question:  That must take a great deal of time, how long do you spend making it?  Until this morning, I never timed the process.  My response was usually "Not very long at all."  Well this morning I have my answer.  Thirteen minutes.  That includes using the green screen app, moving it to iMovie, and pressing the button to upload it to YouTube and our Facebook page.  Thirteen minutes to engage our families.  Thirteen minutes to make sure our message and story is being consumed by people, not just the bottom of lockers.  Thirteen minutes.  Do you have 13 minutes for your families?