EdTech tool of the month: Periscope

Periscope, the new live streaming app for smartphone users, is being touted as an innovative new tool for both classroom and work-based learning.


The free app for Android and iOS, which was acquired by Twitter earlier this year and is heavily integrated with the social media site, allows anyone to broadcast what they are seeing to the world. Users download the app and can broadcast a live stream via Twitter using the camera on their phone. There is the option to make the stream viewable to the public or privately to a group of users, with viewers then able to comment on the video stream in text form.

By Jessamine Brown
Transparency in the classroom


Though still a relatively new app, teachers all over the world are beginning to experiment with Periscope to explore its educational potential. The possibilities are many and varied. Through streaming lessons live, parents and other teachers are able to see what is happening in class, while students that aren’t able to make it to class won’t miss out on valuable teaching time. The app can also work as a powerful revision tool; teachers are able to upload the video material of their lessons to Youtube, which allows students to review the material at a later date. This is something that Starr Sackstein, a teacher of Journalism based in New York who has tested Periscope with her students, elaborates on in Education Week Teacher:


“Transparency is important in the classroom. In addition to being able to show parents and other teachers what learning is happening in class, this is a great way to document learning over time to share with students when it comes time to reflect at the end of the year. The video footage coupled with their portfolio work will give a very full picture of what has changed over the course of time.”

Periscope also opens up the possibility of virtual office hours for students who need further help outside of lessons. However, unlike other live streaming services such as Google Hangouts, which can also be used in this way, the nature of Periscope’s commenting system allows teachers to always remain in control of the session. Students can ask questions via the text commenting system, which the teacher can then respond to on the live stream, enabling them to address individual queries while still leading the group.


What also differentiates Periscope from other webinar tools is its integration with Twitter. Content is easily shareable and instantly viewable by anyone on the platform, giving the broadcaster a potentially huge audience. Add to this the fact that students as well as teachers are able to broadcast material, enabling them to be active as well as passive learners, and its clear the app brings something to the classroom which other live streaming services, such as Skype and Google Hangouts, currently lack.


The global reach of Periscope


Perhaps what is most exciting is the potential for Periscope to turn the classroom into a truly global space by eliminating borders and allowing students from all over the world to connect with each other. For geography or language teachers, the app could prove an invaluable tool in helping students to learn languages and explore different cultures. Students in a geography class in the USA, for example, could use Periscope to connect with students in a class in Japan giving them a direct and unique insight into life for their contemporaries around the world. Starr Sackstein picks up on this further:


“Too often we get hyper-focused on our spaces and lose sight of the big picture, seeing what others are doing can be very validating and inspiring. Imagine even allowing your students to watch a classroom in another part of the country learning the same thing? It could lead to really amazing connections.”


Virtual field trips are also made possible through the potential of the app to connect students with the places they are learning about and the relevant expert in that field. Gary Anderson, a composition and writing teacher at Harper College in the USA, points out how Periscope’s portability makes it unique in this way:


“Contact the experts and ask if they will join you via Periscope to talk with your class and show where and how they work. I’ve had wonderful experiences doing this kind of thing with Skype, but Periscope’s portability enhances the potential for even more dynamic learning opportunities.”


As well as being beneficial for students, Periscope could also prove helpful for teachers, who would be able to learn from and critique each other’s lessons whilst also sharing best practices for teaching methods.


The potential for workplace learning is also huge, with international offices being connected and workplace training no longer being limited to a single physical space.


Criticism of Periscope in schools


Despite its many apparent advantages, there is still one major drawback of Periscope – the privacy issue. Filming students in their classroom and then broadcasting them on Twitter is problematic, not least due to the issue of consent, which would presumably be needed from both the student and parent (if the student was under 18). Moreover, the stream is broadcast on Twitter yet Twitter’s privacy policy currently states that all users of the social media platform should be at least 13 years old. This would therefore rule out the use of Periscope in pre-secondary school classrooms.


Jason Wigmore, a Grade 4 teacher from Ontario Canada, has tested Periscope in his classroom. He has concerns about how wide reaching the app is, as he states on his blog:


“Everything we record does not need a global audience. I know the big push is to connect to a global audience, but we don’t need to turn our classrooms into reality shows (i.e. Big Brother)…My wish would be that Periscope would allow you to not publish the video to their public site, but keep it private.”


Another concern is that Periscope’s commenting system currently cannot be switched off, meaning inappropriate or irrelevant comments cannot be hidden from viewers.


If the developers of Periscope are able to overcome these issues, the app could prove to be a powerful tool in education, transforming classrooms into ever-more dynamic and engaging spaces.


Find out about other creative ways in which social media is being used as an effective tool for education and training at OEB, taking place in Berlin on December 2nd – 4th, 2015.

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