As a followup to my previous post, we broadcast the girls’ and boys’ basketball games tonight and gained 80 viewers. There’s the audience! If viewership is one measure of success, then give the people what they want!
We successfully broadcast Catlin Gabel’s workshop to design the school’s next community event(s). I had the uStream working smoothly, the facilitator played his role perfectly, and we included the contributions from virtual participants in the real workshop. In the two weeks before the event, we made at least eight announcements in newsletters, email messages, and online articles that people would be able to attend the workshop online. We have some 3,000 alumni and 500 current families from which to draw a virtual audience.
Only five people showed up, and two were my IT colleagues.
What happened? What is the potential of live web broadcasting in a school?
I have seen uStream used most successfully in an educational setting to live broadcast major speeches and conferences. I recently tuned into a great presentation at Castilleja School. A Stanford professor was explaining how all websites, but social networks in particular, are vehicles of persuasion. I was the only virtual attendee.
Broadcasting educational technology conferences seems popular of late. The audience is large, widely dispersed, and technologically savvy. Still, having been a virtual participant before, the presentation quality is poor enough that it makes difficult to pick up everything that is going on. Our virtual participants on Saturday made the same comment.
I don’t feel compelled to live broadcast major events at our school. I would rather record with videocamera and then publish the next day, in higher quality than uStream and as a permanent addition to our site. Just last week, I recorded our Martin Luther King, Jr. community meeting (elementary), published it to a private page for our community, and already it has been viewed 70 times.
Perhaps people are just too busy to attend a live, five-hour online event at a specific time. They can play recorded online video at their convenience. Maybe for this event, we should have eschewed live participation in favor of making a highlight reel of the major points in a recorded video format. Or maybe the gesture of opening the meeting to virtual participants was a sufficiently important to justify the work involved.
Perhaps we were competing for audience against ourselves. If the 100 most interested people actually came to the event to participate in person, how many more did that leave to participate virtually?
Have you seen the new Cisco ads showing telepresence in classrooms? Who really thinks that schools will be able to afford high-end video conferencing of this sort? Grocery stores have far more flat-panel televisions than schools these days, and they sell food.
I would like my next attempt at live broadcast to involve a sports event. Sports have the immediacy of experience that demands a live broadcast, color commentary could be fun and interesting, and the project would involve students. However, we would still be competing against ourselves for audience, the potential audience is relatively small, and a lot of people might feel content to just find out the score the next day. It’s worth a try, though, as students studying at home could easily tune in and follow the game.
I could imagine a schoolwide event during which we partnered with one or more schools elsewhere to pursue the same agenda and discuss similar topics. However, I would choose Skype for such a broadcast, so that it would be equally bidirectional.
Have you used uStream in a school with more success? Did you draw an actual audience? Please tell us about it.
An an experiment, we videotaped and published two student panels from last weekend’s admission open house. Inspired by our recent work on a new web site design, I wanted to provide content that directly meets a priority audience need and fits how our audiences consume content.
We know that watching video has become increasingly popular online, and that it doesn’t have to be very high quality to meet people’s expectations. In fact, lower quality may connote greater authenticity than a highly polished product. We have also learned that middle and high school students, not their parents, are increasingly making choices among schools. We figure that students are even more likely to enjoy consuming information in a visual format.
We also know that prospective families want to find out directly what the student experience is like. What better way to learn than to hear from students themselves. Admittedly, the students were answering questions within the context of an admission open house, but their relaxed nature and eagerness shows the truth to the words they speak.
Simultaneously, I broadcast the events to uStream in order to practice this for the first time. It was so easy to do, aside from the fact that the audio didn’t publish! I connected my DV camera to the Mac via FireWire, and then specified DV for video and audio input on uStream. One key lesson is that uStream dramatically reduces file transfer and processing time. Even if we are not interested in broadcasting live, the moment the event is over, we have a web-enabled, embeddable movie. Brilliant.
We will track statistics and listen to anecdotal feedback to determine whether we should post video or schedule interactive experiences more often. I can envision interactive chats with the Head of School or the broadcasting of sports competitions, arts performances, and distinguished speakers. Alumni in particular might enjoy tuning in to a substantive presentation from their old school. Parents might be able to watch a presentation from home that they could not attend in person. Automatically archiving everything is wonderful. Making the process really easy helps with adoption.