Up (Or Down) Periscope?

Exploring a tech tool for on-the-spot broadcasting in education.

GUEST COLUMN | by Mitchell Collin Fairchild

CREDIT PeriscopeSo, I finally got around to creating a Periscope account, and I even created a brief 30-second broadcast (tons more to come). I want to start off by saying that I love this app. Over the past two weeks, I’ve connected with people all over the world and I’ve had the opportunities to witness first hand, and have conversations about, everything from newly designed bus stations in Tel Aviv to breaching whales in Hawaii. This idea of broadcasting live to the world is exceptionally cool. Yes, MeerkatStreams and YouNow are similar in concept, but I chose to check out Periscope because it links directly to my Twitter (@EdTechRedneck).

Over the past two weeks, I’ve connected with people all over the world and I’ve had the opportunities to witness first hand, and have conversations about, everything from newly designed bus stations in Tel Aviv to breaching whales in Hawaii. 

I honestly believe utilizing this type of technology to create “on the spot broadcasts” has the potential to make a huge impact in our classrooms. Think of all of the field trips we can go on and broadcast back to students who were unable to make the trip. We could plan personal trips to labs or museums and then broadcast back to our classes, where a substitute teacher would be waiting to enter questions from our students. Consider all of the organizations from around the world that our classrooms could connect with. What if we partnered with another teacher’s classroom from across the globe, or across the state, to perform dynamic team projects? (Yes, one of the classrooms might have to adjust their schedule to meet early in the morning before school or later in the evening after school…but the potential is awesome!) Educational organizations could use this app to revolutionize professional development events. And don’t get me started on the possibilities of using Periscope for flipped classroom events.

The concepts and ideas that are associated with Periscope from an educational standpoint are limitless and should definitely be attempted, but not before we come together to figure out how to best implement this beast in our respective learning environments.

So, after sifting through hundreds of Scopes (oh, scopes are what broadcasts are called and scopers are the people broadcasting), this is what I’ve observed:

1) Periscope is free to anyone via smartphone or tablet app (or via computer by way of the Internet).

THE BAD: Periscope is free to everyone.

Numbskulls, jerks, perverts, and politicians all have access to this tool and at any time can choose to be their normal selves and ruin it for everyone…If we let them.

THE GOOD: Periscope is free to everyone.

Every student, educator, and organization can use this tool to connect to one another and share all the creativity, technology, genius, and awesomeness they have to offer. It can be a bridge that connects student to concepts and ideas that can change their circumstances, situations, and world around them for the better.

2) As with most technological advancements, teenagers have mastered it overnight.

THE BAD: Student can easily broadcast anything using Periscope.

One of the first things I noticed was how easy it was for anyone, of pretty much any age, to scope, pretty much anything they want. As a father of teen daughters, it was shocking to how many teenage girls were seeking attention…from ANYBODY.

[Get on soapbox] C’mon parents—we gotta parent [Get off soapbox].

Then there were the teens that liked to scope live from their classrooms without their school’s permission. I have no problem with scoping form the classroom, but it needs to be with school/teacher permission. Unfortunately, the scopes I saw were by students who only wanted to make fun of the teacher or fellow classmates in an effort to get surrounding “friends” to think they were “cool.” Ironically, once I tweeted that I was going to call the office—the scopers stopped.

THE GOOD: Students can easily broadcast anything using Periscope.

Ease of use of any classroom tool is crucial. The ability of our students to share ideas, ask questions, and connect with people who have similar likes via Periscope is tremendous. The easier it is for students to interact with peers on specific topics, the easier it is for knowledge acquisition to takes place on a global scale. Inquiry is huge, and Periscope has the potential to encourage and help students hone inquiry skills.

We educators need to design our Digital Citizenship curriculum so that it puts a major emphasis on instant broadcasting. Just like any social media outlet (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Snapchat), students need to understand that once they’ve used Periscope to “put it out there” they can’t take it back. All Periscope broadcasts are posted on Periscope for 24 hours after initial broadcast is complete, then they expire forever. So within that 24 hours window anybody can make a recording of your broadcast.

We must educate our students on how best to utilize this potentially productive learning tool. Once we’ve taught proper use, we can then challenge students to find interesting, fun, and educational ways to use Periscope. This will make Periscope a more student/classroom friendly tool that is not only efficient, but effective as well.

3) Those watching a broadcast can comment on what they observe and everyone watching the broadcast sees those comments.

THE BAD: Instantaneous communication/feedback.

In researching Periscope, I found that there are a lot of rude people out there who think they are funny and enjoy posting rude, profane, and idiotic comments aimed at Scopers. These people suck. Some of the comments were mean, and just plain hurtful. Moreover, everyone watching the scope sees the rude comments in tweet form as they pop-up on the screen to the left. Why? Why? Why?

Please note: Once a rude comment has been made, the scoper can block that person from commenting again. The person watching the scope can also tap on the rude post and block the person from commenting any further.

THE GOOD: Instantaneous communication/feedback.

Instant feedback in Periscope is much like instant feedback in video game play. As a Design/Tech teacher, I love that video game play gives us instant feedback. My students create games that require the player to make a “wise choice” or “poor choice.” Student players are then given instant feedback as to whether or not their choice was beneficial to their character’s/avatar’s life or not. The students then learn form the feedback and build critical thinking skills that will last a lifetime.

Feedback in Periscope works much the same way. If a student is scoping on a topic, or a teacher is giving a lesson over a specific discipline, the Q & A session is live and the conversations can be very educational and very productive. There is a “virtual” (see what I did there) opening of the inquiry floodgates. The subject specific dialog that can be created, as the scoper reads the incoming messages, can be phenomenal. This feedback dialog helps students to rationalize on the spot about what is being said and asked during the scope. Like video game feedback, students build critical thinking skills and public speaking skills, which will help them in college and/or throughout their adult life.

4) Periscope can connect teachers and student to the world.

THE BAD: The entire class can be included in a Periscope event.

All teachers need to make sure that we have the necessary permissions to post images of our student on social sites like Periscope. Typically campuses have parents sign permission sheets at the first of the school year that either give or revoke permission for their child’s image to be publically displayed. Remember, some parents don’t want their child being seen online, and in some cases, the courts prohibit certain students from having their image posted online. Teachers need to be diligent in identifying who can be filmed and who cannot.

THE GOOD: The entire class can be included in a Periscope event.

Teachers can connect their entire class with other classrooms around the world. Students can experience life in far away places. American students can connect with educators, organizations and even family members from across the globe. The learning opportunities are limitless.

5) Students and teachers can be recognized for their input and be a part of a subject specific community.

THE BAD: Ain’t none.

THE GOOD: This is a win-win.

Students, and teachers alike, enjoy recognition form their peers. The most effective Periscope broadcasts I observed took place when the person scoping read the names of the people who tweeted questions, and then proceeded to start a dialog with them on whatever their particular topic was. Some scopers were interacting with “regulars” that they had commented and interacted with on previous scopes. There was a relationship that had been built, and the scoper made them feel like an important part of the scope. This has the potential to keep the students coming back for more and delving deeper into a subject they are passionate about.

Overall, my experiences have been positive. I’ve made awesome connections and I now have regular scopes that I subscribe to. The opportunities I’ve had to learn from other as they describe their environments and their culture. My Periscope experience is only a few weeks old, but I’ve learned so much from various people around the globe, and by giving students this same opportunity, we can help them open their minds to the world around them.

As stated previously, there is still a long way to go before this type of technology is commonplace in the classroom. I believe Periscope is trying to discover ways for making scopes more inviting and relational, and scopers more accountable for their actions. Until that day, I think there is still limited use for Periscope in our respective learning environments. I encourage you to download the app and start surfing the many scopes that already take place from the various regions of the world. Even if scoping with your students is not conceivable at this time, there are some awesome things to be learned from the scopers are worth sharing with your students.

Mitchell Collin Fairchild, M.Ed., is a design/technology teacher, a doctoral candidate writing a dissertation on the subject of technology in the classroom, and the founder of an edtech company. Write to: mitchfairchild@gmail.com

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Putting an Entire Library in Their Pockets

In the shift from print to digital, a family legacy modernizes a classic need. 

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

CREDIT Ted Levin kids discoverAs districts around the country make the transition from print textbooks to interactive digital platforms, smart legacy publishers are moving with them. In this interview, Ted Levine (pictured), the president and CEO of Kids Discover, shares his family-owned company’s journey from 20-page magazines to customizable digital content.

How long has Kids Discover been publishing nonfiction for kids?

Ted: Kids Discover was founded in 1991 by my father Mark Levine, and was originally launched as a subscription magazine for children ages 6-12. Each issue would focus on a single subject and feature topics such as Insects, Ancient Greece, Antarctica, and Cells. Issues read like short books, but were designed as 20-page magazines, with beautiful

We’ve worked very hard to give educators and students access to our entire library from any device. Now we’ll be working to find ways to create deeper integrations
with various learning management systems, such as Google Classroom and Edmodo.

photos, illustrations, and captions geared to excite and engage young readers. Many parents, who subscribed to the magazine for their children were also educators, and soon there was demand to use our back issues in the classroom. More than 25 years later, our audience is comprised of parents and homeschool educators, but our biggest audience is elementary and middle school educators and students.

What was the big catalyst that inspired the move from print to digital publishing?

Ted: In short, demand. The classroom has evolved so much since Kids Discover first began publishing, and that evolution has really accelerated over the last five years. With many districts moving towards a 1:1 computing model in the classroom, we want to make sure that each student can have their own access to Kids Discover’s library of resources at a fair and affordable cost per student.

What can digital content offer students and teachers that print couldn’t?

Ted: I’m a big believer that print will always have a place at the table, and that it can deliver an experience that is both CREDIT Kids Discovervaluable and enriching for a young learner. But there are certain things that print cannot do. You can’t play a video in a magazine, or interact with a 3-D panorama. You can’t participate in a poll and see the results update in real time. There are limitations to printed products.

One specific example that pertains to our newest platform, Kids Discover Online, is that we can serve up three different reading levels. This is a feature that educators were asking us to do in 2004 with our print products, but being a small, family-owned publisher, having three versions of each title was never a reality from an economic standpoint. With digital, it was a huge investment upfront to rewrite all of our content so that we could offer three different reading levels for each article, but now those reading levels can be served up instantaneously with a click of a button. That’s incredibly powerful.

On the flip side, tell me about your ongoing demand for print products. Is it that districts want both print and digital, or do you have a significant number of “print-only” customers?

Ted: Because our online offering is only a couple months old, the majority of our customers are still print. But we’re already seeing past print customers come in and purchase digital subscriptions in addition to our print titles, or in some cases, in place of print altogether. On a per-student basis, our online offering is significantly more affordable than our print products, but there is still a large percentage of schools that don’t have 1:1 devices or adequate WiFi for streaming digital content. Our ideal customers want a mix of both, and understand that both mediums hold a place in a blended environment, which seems to be gaining more and more momentum.

What sort of feedback have you gotten from administrators and teachers about the digital content?

Ted: Teachers absolutely love the three reading levels, which we do not offer in print. Administrators love that our online offering is platform-agnostic and web-based, which works for a vast array of device types and sizes, and requires very few resources to implement and no resources to maintain. That also enables students to access our library from their home, or even on the go from their mobile device.

What sort of constructive criticism have you gotten from administrators and teachers about digital content?

Ted: Assessments! Outside of some small quiz questions that are embedded throughout the content, we have no formal assessments in our online platform. We’re working with a number of educators across the country to figure out the best way to implement a solution into Kids Discover Online. Our number one priority is to make our assessment solution easy to use for teachers, and to make it customizable. A third-grade teacher in Texas is probably going to be asking some different questions that a seventh-grade teacher in Ohio. If we can create a solution that gives more control to the educator—without creating a lot of additional work—we think that will be powerful.

What’s the next step in the evolution of Kids Discover?

Ted: Right now we are really committed to the further development and evolution of Kids Discover Online. We’ve worked very hard to give educators and students access to our entire library from any device. Now we’ll be working to find ways to create deeper integrations with various learning management systems, such as Google Classroom and Edmodo. Possible integrations could include single sign-in access, and also assessment solutions that pass information from Kids Discover online into a building’s LMS. We’ll also be rolling out a standards widget in March that will demonstrate how our library aligns to specific state and Common Core standards. We’re also very interested in rolling out resources in other languages, most notably Spanish. We want to continually improve and adapt our platform as classrooms continue to evolve.

Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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Trends | You Used to Call Me on My Cell Phone

CREDIT Common Sense MediaWatch a movie from the 1980s or earlier and you’ll notice something interesting: no cell phones. In just the past ten years, there’s been a massive shift in the way media and technology intersect with how we work and live. Increasingly mobile devices with better functionality have made these handheld technologies seemingly indispensable. Look around at a traffic light and you’ll see people with their heads down into their phone. Go to a pedestrian area, a public park or mall, anywhere there are lots of people, and chances are, same thing: whatever the reason, people are head-down into a device. At home, at school, anywhere and everywhere – what are the human costs of an “always connected” lifestyle, especially for our children? Common Sense Media asked this question and produced a brief that examines the latest scientific research about problematic media use, articulating its pervasiveness, forms, and possible impacts on youth’s well-being and development, yielding some surprising findings and raising many more questions. Common Sense polled over 1,200 parents and teens to discover how the saturation of mobile devices in family life plays out in homes and child-parent relationships. Learn more in their infographic, “Dealing with Devices: The Parent-Teen Dynamic.

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Want to Drive On-Campus Visits?

Time to elevate your student relationship management game.

GUEST COLUMN | by Jennifer Wiles

CREDIT G:O DigitalIt’s all set up to impress: the perfectly manicured lawn bustling with student activity. The state of the art gym. The recently renovated dorms. College campuses are some of the most beautiful pieces of real estate in the country, and touring one is a massively important moment for interested students.

As many as 31 percent of students make a decision on a university based on a campus visit. Colleges are spending big money on digital lead generation, but if it’s not leading to sandals touching the quad, it’s not likely converting into an enrollment.

Facebook ads are a new phenomenon within the education sector, and they’re leading to campus visits and conversions.

Here are three keys ideas to keep in mind when developing a marketing strategy to get prospective students to your campus.

Meet students where they are so they’ll meet you where you are.

The current batch of high school juniors and seniors are the leaders of the first truly digitally native generation. And while they weren’t born with a smartphone in hand, they don’t know life without one. Universities still allocate a large portion of marketing spend on traditional forms of advertising like print, direct mail and outdoor. And while these are still effective branding tools and can inspire follow-up searches, they aren’t tools to drive visits in and of themselves.

Students want information quickly and they know how to snuff out a sales pitch. Personalized, simple social media strategies are the most effective way to non-invasively enter the younger demographics conversation space. Facebook ads are a new phenomenon within the education sector, and they’re leading to campus visits and conversions. In fact, 62 percent of students recently surveyed said that they are most likely to follow a college on Facebook over any other channel.

Encouraging prospects to schedule an appointment on a college’s website is a regular strategy used by four-year universities. But rather than forcing potential students to click away from their social feeds to navigate a maze of forms to register, Facebook ads now feature popups within the ad itself that allow users to input contact information without ever leaving their news feed. Then, all you have to do is have an admissions rep (also effective: a current student close in age to a prospects peer group) follow up with a phone call, email or text the same day and you’ll make a lasting impression.

Do the work behind the scenes to make students feel unique.

Just like with any good customer relationship management program, you can use information potential students provide to go all-out before, during and after their campus visit. Every step should feel personal and tailored to the individual student. Some small colleges have seen first-hand the magic of a custom experience, with visit rates spiking by as much as 20 percent and enrollment and retention rates displaying a similar trajectory.

Following up with your prospects to encourage a two-way dialogue is key for setting up the visit. A smart re-targeting campaign is another way to stay top of mind and grow excitement in students. Use the information you obtain through your follow-up conversations to build a customized experience for students and their families, including email, social tactics and microsites that showcase campus events related to students’ interests and reminders of key enrollment dates and materials

Don’t forget about the twenty-something-and-above crowd.

With all the emphasis placed on converting high schoolers to enrollees, it’s important not to lose sight of a significant demographic with different concerns. Continuing education students and adult learners account for as much as 75 percent of the general college campus population, yet are often ignored or misunderstood by marketers.

The reasons for this are varied. Because the concerns of adult learners are different than those of new grads, marketing strategies that promote campus culture, amenities and social life won’t be as effective. This is where targeted banner campaigns with nuanced, vocational-based messaging and placement can have the most impact. You still want these individuals to visit your campus, but your conversion will happen in the unglamorous admin office rather than the majestic quad.

To this end, admission reps need to be trained to ask the right questions when meeting with continuing education learners. How can you work around their schedules? Do they prefer online vs. on campus? How are you going to demonstrate that your curriculum will meet their set of unique needs? For adults, the decision cycle takes longer and there’s more risk involved. As a result, a majority of adult learners enrolling in college over the age of twenty-five fail to last beyond their first year.

Making contact with students, regardless of age, and showing continued understanding of their busy lives and education needs is key to building a relationship that will drive campus visits and will one that will last.

Jennifer Wiles is Senior Digital Account Manager, Agency Services, for G/O Digital. She has more than nine years in digital marketing, along with more than six years of account management experience, partnering with small business owners, medium-sized operations and multi-national accounts in a wide-range of industries. Her passion is building education brands and at G/O Digital, Jennifer uses her nearly five years of experience leading the strategy for education accounts. Write to: jwiles@godigitalmarketing.com

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Drowning in Data but Thirsting for Insight

Colleges and universities overcome tough questions about student outcomes.

GUEST COLUMN | by Keith Rajecki

CREDIT Oracle educationRemember the days of sink or swim? When getting a student in the door was considered success? Well, those days are long gone. Today, outcomes are top of-mind for every campus leader, with colleges and universities worldwide placing a hyper-focus on improving student success and enabling all students to accomplish the educational goals they set out to achieve. But improving outcomes isn’t easy, and institutions are grappling with tough questions such as:

“How do I enable students for the workforce?”

“What must I do to increase course and degree completion?”

“How do I deliver the personalized learning and experience my students expect?”

“What support do my students need throughout their journey with my institution?” 

Measuring student success is challenging because every student’s goal is different. For some, graduating from a degree program and securing a job in the workforce is their goal. But for others, transferring from a community college to a university, or earning a badge or certificate to earn a promotion at work or an increase in pay is their objective. So how do

Campus leaders, faculty, and staff are struggling to answer the tough questions that can unlock the secrets to improving outcomes and student success.

you measure success, improve outcomes, and help your students succeed? The answer is not more data – it’s better insight into and analysis of this data.

Data is certainly seeing its time in the spotlight. But even with the vast amounts of data available, many institutions continue to face a shortage of true insight. Campus leaders, faculty, and staff are struggling to answer the tough questions that can unlock the secrets to improving outcomes and student success. But they need better insight to predict outcomes, take action, and make better decisions, faster.

Recruit and Retain the Best

One of the secrets to improving outcomes is ensuring that you’re recruiting the best-fit students for your institution. Understanding the characteristics of the students most likely to succeed, and targeting your recruiting efforts at these students, improves your chances of boosting outcomes and completion rates. Data captured within the many systems on campus can provide facts about which students perform better than others. But when you marry that data with analysis, you can begin to see trends emerge. What you might find is that the prospective students you’ve targeted in the past are not the ones most likely to succeed. By uncovering this insight, you can refocus your recruiting efforts on the students most likely to thrive at your institution.

The same holds true for faculty and staff. Having the right people is critical to delivering the programs and support that students need to succeed. By understanding the traits of the best faculty and staff, institutions can target their search towards others who fit that profile.

Modern Students. Modern Expectations

Today’s students have high standards. They arrive on campus – either online or in person – expecting a modern, seamless, personalized experience. From their first interaction as a prospect, to their interactions in the classroom, through to their relationship as an alumnus, they expect their institution to know who they are and what they need, when they need it. Data can help institutions identify a student and provide some basic statistics about their interactions on campus. But with data, you only see half the picture. Institutions need insight into this data to spot trends, make connections, and uncover insight that alerts them of students who may be struggling, at-risk for going off track, or simply in need of some guidance. Once institutions gain that insight, they can target interventions, or deliver the personalized, relevant content they need to succeed. All of these activities, driven by insight, help improve outcomes by driving higher completion rates within a course, degree, or certification program. 

Empowering Lifelong Learning

In today’s world, learning doesn’t end when students leave the institution. Institutions worldwide must support lifelong learning by helping the current and next generation workforce gain access to education through badges, certificates, and competencies that help them learn a new skill, earn a raise, or change careers. How you measure success is different for every student. With insight, institutions can curate the right curriculum and services for each student, deliver content in context, and gain insight to individual and aggregated learning opportunities and best practices. Again, it’s not just reporting on the data – it’s using the data to uncover true insight so you can deliver on the promise of true lifelong learning in support of 21st century education.

So I challenge you – don’t just report on your data. Use it. Analyze it. Uncover hidden insight, and apply that insight to everything you do. As that is the key to improving outcomes and student success.

Keith Rajecki is Senior Director, Industry Solutions at Oracle Global Education and Research. With more than 17 years in the education industry, he has developed and implemented technology solutions for every aspect of information technology, including one of the first e-learning platforms as well as data center consolidation strategies. 

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