Periscope

periscope

Periscope, the newest live broadcasting application, put out by Twitter has been making news headlines in recent days. All of the controversy really got me interested in what it is all about. So after some preliminary research, I found out what the application has to offer. It is a free app that allows its users to broadcast live from anywhere, watch other users’ live broadcasts and comment on them. Basically, it’s kind of like Facebook but in real time with video. There are some special features such as while watching a live broadcast, users can click on the screen to give that person hearts. The followed person can also see who has joined their broadcast, see how many hearts they have been given and respond to any comments in real time. It’s being compared to its counterpart, Meerkat, which is the same kind of application but Periscope is thought to be leading ‘the app race’ because of some of its unique features like being able to replay broadcast recordings and for its Twitter Social Graph and Following connectivity. One down side with both of these applications, is they are currently only available for iOS.

But how could I use Periscope in the ESL Classroom? According to EdTech’s Team’s Blog, Twitter is Not Just for Text Anymore – Say Hello to Livestreaming via Periscope, Periscope can be applied in the classroom by :

  • Broadcasting lessons for those students who might not be able to attend because they are sick or away from school.
  • Broadcasting plays and performances happening at school for parents who can not attend due to other obligations.
  • Broadcasting students doing work/projects in class for parents to see – this could help spark conversations at dinner and allow parents to see the culture of the classroom.
  • Allowing students to broadcast their speeches or team questions to help them find people who might be able to offer a better answer.
  • Giving students a soap box to broadcast their speeches, learning or ideas.

For me personally, I immediately thought of school trips or school excursions. I thought about how Periscope could be used by students to present places during a school trip. For example, before departing, students could be given a short assignment to broadcast live at certain locations. Another way I see Periscope as being highly valuable is as a tool to broadcast classroom to classroom throughout in the world. When I was teaching ESL in Japan, we tried something like this with Skype between two classrooms (one in Japan and the other in the United States) but there were so many technological issues like long delays, poor sound, and screen freezing that it ended up being a technological nightmare rather than a cross cultural experience. For that time, it was a very exciting idea but would have been more effective with today’s technology. The reason teachers should be using technology like Periscope to aid students’ learning is because a simple activity, like a live broadcast with another classroom would give students a sense of purpose for having a conversation in English and allows students to use their English in a natural and authentic environment. In reference to Ruben R. Puentedura’s SAMR Classification, this type of activity would be considered Redefinition, whereby this type of technology allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.

Other benefits for use in the classroom are overwhelming; it is an experience that can only be had using this kind of application. However, as a future educator, I also have some serious concerns in regards to the application and its downsides, which are somewhat serious. As Jeffrey Bradbury, the creator of TeacherCast.net, points out in his blog, Is Periscope Appropriate for Education?, through real experiences using the application, he found that followers’ comments can quickly turn from positive to negative and because he didn’t know how to block those followers, the comments quickly spiraled out of control. Contrary to Jeffrey Bradbury’s experience, another teacher, David Beaty, who experimented with Periscope was pleasantly surprised by the responses to one video that was being broadcasted by a garbage collector on the job.

It’s what makes the whole thing truly social. I noticed immediately this was not  your typical “Eating a sandwich” stream with people making comments like ” you suck”. People were actually asking real questions of the driver. “Are you union?”, “How long does the route take you?” Things like that. I found myself wishing I could have a whole grade 1 class next to me!

One thing I found out in regards to blocking users is that it is relatively easy to block users from your broadcasts, but nonetheless is an issue that needs to be dealt with immediately and teachers need to ensure students using the application are aware of these negative aspects of social media applications and how to manage them in an educational setting. Jeff Dunn’s blog, Live from … your classroom! Here’s how Twitter’s new Periscope app works, highlights some issues that any educator thinking about using Periscope in the classroom should consider before making the decision:

  • It’s live. That means people can swear and act crudely. Know which stream you’re going to watch!
  • Seriously. It’s live. Beware using this in an educational setting. Not for beginners.
  • Your students WILL be using this app. They are already using it. You can actually watch them and they likely won’t notice, too.
  • Try it out on your own and then use it with friends and colleagues. Take your time. Don’t jump on the ‘hot new app’ train just because it’s being discussed a lot. I can’t stress that enough.

Although I agree with Jeff’s concerns, I think he has missed some quite serious concerns such as privacy and security. There is a lot of talk around these issues regarding Periscope. Brad Reed brings attention to a major security flaw in the application in his article, Twitter needs to fix this potentially dangerous Periscope flaw :

“I knew that Periscope showed my general position— Brooklyn, New York — but I did not know until then that one could zoom in to see the exact location, with street names labeled. I imagine that other many Periscope users are not aware that their locations are pinpointed and viewable in this way.”

Through the use of this application, students would be experiencing authentic real-life learning. Although Periscope is the hottest thing in the app market, I’m not sure if I am 100% convinced as a future educator to use this application in the classroom. I would be curious to test it with a small group of students but I think there are so many other applications that offer just as many opportunities and less headaches in regards to issues that have to be seriously considered before using it in the classroom.

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