Saturday, August 8, 2015

periScopeOut: Showcase Your Students and Your School

By Ed Tech Maniac, Darin Anderson

Pop Quiz:

What do these photos have in common?

A: They all illustrate the lighter side of education
B. They all use education to entertain us
C: They all remind us of our school experiences
D: They all portray a negative image about schools

(Answer at the bottom of this post)

When I was growing up, I had the notable schedule, as did many of us, of watching Saved by the Bell every Saturday morning and then catching The Simpsons on Sunday night. Throw in the Fresh Prince during the week, and I was hooked up with all the teenage humor and drama that I needed.

Without a fully developed frontal lobe, of course I could laugh at the hijinks and timely zingers delivered in each of the episodes and not even bat a questioning eye. I especially chuckled at the good-natured jabs at public and private education. I mean, who doesn't love a joke at the principal's expense? It was funny television, and that was okay with me.

Now that I am older and wiser (the ol' prefrontal cortex is just about there, folks!) I can see the errors of my ways. Sure, there is still plenty of humor to be found in shows like this, but with my ability to "know better," I can see the shows I used to love for what they were.

Think of what we learned about education from each of these sitcoms:
  • Principals and teachers are fools and should be made fun of whenever possible
  • Breaking rules was not only okay, it made one legendary (See: Bart Simpson & Will Smith's School Jacket)
  • No teaching ever went on; it was all dating, drama, and detention
  • Making fun of teachers and classmates was also an easy way to achieve legendary status (see: Screech, for the end result of that.)
  • Bright and hardworking students (Lisa Simpson) were made the brunt of jokes - because who needs smart people, right?
  • As for nerds, well, it was always open season on them. Right, Carlton?
  • Above all, school was a place to goof off, while actual learning was unheard of 
The ultimate result, perhaps, was a generation of students who hated going to school because it did not fulfill their Saved by the Bell fantasies. Now these same folks are sending their own children to school decades later. (Yes, it HAS been that long.)

Many parents have a poor taste in their mouths when it comes to their own kids' education in large part due to the many many changes that have taken place in schools over the past couple of decades. Increased Federal Bureaucracy, No Child Left Behind, Common Core State Standards, Performance Based Pay, Instructional Technology, and Flavor-of-the-Month Professional Development, to name just a few.

Add in occasional physical or sexual assault charges, unfair educational practices, rants on social media, or a major television series, and you have all kinds of negative PR about the otherwise wonderful schools across the world.

All of the noise has caused a small but growing firestorm about American education that seems to portray a system that is broken and with no redeemable qualities. To hear some tell it, the teachers of today are lazy and don't care about their students. They are less apt to teach, and more likely to complain on Facebook about their lousy, worthless students and how underpaid they are. They deliver subpar instruction while planning the next teacher's union protest...or lunchtime potluck.

To be clear, there are many instances of schools, administrators, and teachers being up to no good. As educators we know going in that there is a different expectation on us than on other professionals. Don't believe me? When was the last time you visited with your dentist about bicuspids and the quality of dental floss while chatting in Aisle 5 of the Piggly Wiggly?

If we cannot do much to overcome the national trashtalk about education, how do we go about controlling the message that goes out about OUR OWN schools and OUR OWN kids?

Most schools invite parents and community members to take an active role in their schools, from volunteering in classrooms to viewing performances and presentations. Further, school districts and individual schools have a solid social media presence. With Facebook messages or the occasional Tweets, we can keep stakeholders up on the latest announcements and happenings in our schools.

But how many times do schools combine the concepts of visitors and broadcasting outside the building? Check this out.

Up, Periscope.

Periscope is a relatively new app that lets users broadcast a live video feed from almost any smartphone or tablet, and it happens immediately. Since it is linked to Twitter, Periscope will automatically post a link to your live feed to make it accessible to anyone who follows your account. In an instant - just give your broadcast a name and tap the start button - you are live to the entire world. One the broadcast is ended, the entire video is automatically saved to your Periscope account. And it is all for free!

Here are some practical uses for Periscope:
  • Classroom lectures and presentations can be viewed at home by students who are ill or just as a refresher from kids who were in attendance.
  • Parents who are unable to attend their child's class presentation can still join in on the fun.
  • A proactive principal or teacher can broadcast school activities or innovative class projects as they happen.
  • Students can Periscope each other completing components of a project. (think: PBL)
  • Back to school night, or math night, can go worldwide as a principal scans her building in search of positive comments from staff, parents, and students.
  • Extracurricular activities can unite a community when put on Periscope.
  • Opening a new or building or wishing to show off major renovations? Periscope it!
  • Field trips remain more than just a memory when they are broadcast to the world. During and afterwards, students and parents can watch the feed and relive the experience.
  • Seamless integration with Twitter, expands an already powerful educational tool.
These and many other uses combine to make Periscope a viable resource to control your school's message. Sure, core groups of parents know the goods and the bads of your school district, but with Periscope, you can stay on top of the best parts of what you do for your kids.

As for the answer to our questions...

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