I want my classroom to be open to the public. I want experts to be able to drop in and contribute from anywhere in the world. I am also interested in studying my teaching practice, particularly in finding ways to increase student engagement. I recently began to use the classroom microphone and Polycom system in SJSU’s incubator classroom to broadcast to ustream.tv. In the process of configuring the audio/visual I learned a lot about the content that I was broadcasting. I also adapted to the fact that I did not have a dedicated camera operator and found the essential bandwidth of the materials that I was dealing with. I focused on usability of the content (along with classroom resources online) and the overall atmosphere of the classroom (for the student engagement study).
Through use of the video I attempt to do the following for each class period: provide a live stream for access to students and others who cannot physically attend class, create a video record for students that miss class or who desire to review the class afterwards, and create an ongoing video record of classroom activity to study student engagement and improve my teaching.
I use ustream.tv because it is simple to setup and run, the quality of video is scalable, the concurrent embeddable chat room is easy to use, and it has the ability to record and download recorded files. Last semester I broadcast one section of my class to ustream.tv.
The first step in this process was to have students sign release forms. Because I wanted the course materials to be open and shareable I chose to share authorship with my students and release the video under a creative commons license. Our first class included a conversation about the license, the purpose and the options.
Spring 10 was my second semester recording my class and my first time broadcasting and recording to ustream.tv. We had several technical glitches at the beginning of the semester due to a staff shortage which made us slow to start but once we got running it became smooth.
The recent concern over H1N1 and what happens if a large number of students are unable to come to campus made me think that the live streaming has value in the case of a crisis as well. Additionally several students have been unable to come to campus (one was a student athlete who played away games). In this case the synchronous chat allowed her to communicate with her group and with the rest of the class and not miss any content or work.
The first semester I recorded classes I had a student who had to leave town for her grandfathers funeral. We cover a huge amount of important information in the first few weeks and she was concerned that she would fall behind as she was not familiar with the content. By making the videos available to her she was able to return and continue with her peers at the same level.
I am expanding my use of ustream.tv to bring in experts. I found that the previous technical issues and unreliability made it difficult to create a workflow that I could use with my classroom engagement experts. I do not feel it is fair to ask them to review six hours of footage a week. By selecting specific moments within the class and sharing them, I am able to get richer feedback and make alterations to the way I teach. I have yet to fully test this workflow but am hopeful that it will not take too much additional time but will have a tremendous payoff.
The “Technology and the Classroom” Faculty Learning Community has been invaluable to me for the ability to connect with other teachers using technology to improve their teaching. The benefits have saved me so much time in adopting new technology and provided a set of friendly eyes and ears to help me iron out my technical problems.