Before We Periscope From Our Schools, Let’s Think For a Moment

I fell in love with Periscope, the free live-streaming app created by Twitter, this summer while at ISTE.  Free, instant access to events happening around the world – finally!  The myriad of ways I could see implementing it in my classroom overwhelmed me in a good way.  Kids could periscope our class at any time to bring the world in.  Students could interact with other students around the world.  Students could have a real-time audience at any time we needed.  We could explore every day moments in cultures around the world.  On and on, the ideas went.

Yet, when I thought about it some more, I started to second-guess my love for it a little bit.  I didn’t fall out of love, but I did start to question my own ideas, as well as the professional responsibility that I carry not just as a teacher, but also as an active conference goer/speaker.  So what has made me slow down?

The need for privacy.  Student privacy and protecting it is at the forefront of my mind as a teacher who shares the work of their students.  Some of my students cannot be shown on the internet for a variety of reasons and that is something I respect.  What if that child walks by in the background?  What if their voice is heard?  What if students start filming from our classroom and do not know who can or cannot be shown on the internet?   This by itself is enough to stop me from using Periscope in the classroom, but there is more.

The need for respect.  When I videotape something I have editing abilities.  That means that anything silly, stupid, weird, or somehow embarrassing does not have to be seen by anyone but us.  The “live” part of the live-streaming means there is no delay, no editing, no take back.  What if a child says something mortifying, screws up, fails in some way and the whole world potentially sees it?  One thing is failing in front of your peers and embracing it, another thing is failing in front of strangers.

The need for attention.  My first job is to teach the students in front of me.  Not the world, not the parents, not other colleagues.  So whenever a tool is brought into the classroom, I have to make sure it is not creating a barrier between me and students.  Being focused on live-streaming something means that I am not working with students but instead acting as a cameraman.  Even if I am live-streaming something that I am taking part in, I am still not giving them 100% of my attention because that would be multi-tasking, which we know decreases our focus.

The need for intimacy.  Some of the biggest moments that have happened in our classroom has been when students have let their guards down and trusted us all inherently.  When the door was closed and just we were present.  That intimacy is gone the minute I start videotaping anything.  So often we end up capturing the not quite as great moments because that is all we can get.

The need for purpose.  If live-streaming something will add value to the purpose of what we are doing than I will consider doing it, but if it really only boosts me as someone who shares, or in some other way becomes more about me than my students then I am not for it.  I worry that some will use Periscope to boost their own popularity and lose sight of why we are all doing this; for the kids.

The need for permission from parents.  While most districts have technology policies and permission slips in place that include sharing the work, name, and image of students, Periscope, I feel, is a new level of sharing.  So as a parent I would very much like the right to know about its use, the purpose of it, and also have the right to think about it.  When we don’t ask, we take that right away from parents.  

The need for permission from speakers.  I had a wonderful discussion on Twitter on what the protocol is for periscoping professional development/keynotes and such.  It seems there is none, but there probably should be.  After all, if a conference has spent a lot of money bringing a speaker in and I have registered for it that does not mean we get to share that conference with the world.  What we paid for is our own experience.  So bottom line is to ask before you periscope and respect if someone says no.

So what Periscope might be great for?

Professional development where you interview other great thinkers or interact in some way and make it about the sharing of thought.

Students sharing knowledge in a pre-determined way.  It would be a great idea to have students run a small talk or demonstration purposefully sharing their knowledge with the world.

Showcasing environment or other non-student immersed ideas.  I love the idea of being able to send someone a live stream showcasing my classroom set up, library organization or something like that.  Again, purpose, control, and meaningfulness is at the forefront of my thinking here.

Tuning into a specific part of the world to see what daily life is like there.  This fits nicely with the tag line of “Explore the world through someone else’s eyes.”

So while there are definite great uses to Periscope, I am hesitant to bring it into my classroom when the students are there.  Perhaps I am too scared?  Perhaps I don’t know enough?  I would love to get your opinion on this.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

29 thoughts on “Before We Periscope From Our Schools, Let’s Think For a Moment

    • Very good points. I, too, am new to Periscope. I think I would like to try it in the classroom for my students to teach students in other classrooms/schools/states what we are doing. For example, my students dissect fetal pigs. As part of the dissection students open-up the chest wall, place a tube in the trachea and inflate the lungs (much like physicians place patients on a ventilator). I think that would be a really neat broadcast to share with other classrooms. I would also like to see what my colleagues and their students are doing in other locations across the county and the world.

  1. Thanks, Pernille. I enjoy your enthusiasm. Feels that being in your classroom would be so good. As a retired teacher, I just want to say how important ‘feeling safe’ is in the classroom. This “periscope” lets you look out, but let’s “giants” look in. Technology is developing way faster than we have guidelines & challenges answered. All your concerns are real. Please keep up the learning haven. Kind Regards Meg

  2. I couldn’t agree more with all of your reasons! I also felt at ISTE that I was under a microscope when I knew someone was Periscoping, it was an odd feeling and definitely took the intimacy of a small group discussion out of the experience. You also bring up the biggest point that teachers need to remember that Safety comes first! We need to keep reinterating that because sometimes we get caught up in the excitement and forget the safety and purpose. However, I love your examples on when to use Periscope appropriately and I can’t wait to see the possibilities when used safely! Thanks for sharing this, lots of people need this viewpoint 🙂

  3. Pernille…as always your words are thoughtful and wise. I have not yet dove into Periscope. I have been watching Hong others and waiting to see what my purpose of using it will be. I have had many of these thoughts too. I hope that others read your wise words and consider them too before using Periscope in the classroom.

  4. great points all. Will reply point by point:
    Need for respect:
    Not necessary to show student’s face. Yes, voice is recognizable, and so is posture if you show back, etc. but it is much less so and much less likely to be fodder for ‘editors’.
    I have never used it at school, and not ready for that level of risk yet.
    As educators we must risk in some ways but I’m not ready for that level as of now.

  5. Continuing:
    Need for privacy:
    This is one of biggest concerns for me. even if parents signed on, they may not necessRiily know the level of exposure and the vulnerability thereof. I had not periscopes at school as of yet. We shall see how things evolve. Yesterday I periscoped at a mini maker faire with permission of producer and unwritten permission of parents, but avoided faces whenever possible.
    Very easy to slip up in that regard .

  6. continuing:
    Need for attention :
    Yes, found it tough to have additional item to attend to during maker faire . Was alone filming and being helper teacher. (To repeat, have not used periscope T school because not presently reAdy for that)
    However I did find that the filming did allow me to hyper focus at times, something that I might not otherwise always do. It’s part of why I love having adults in my classroom because the added set of eyes prompts me to delve deeper where I might otherwise have my attention divided by surroundings.
    there is a focusing effect in addition to the dividing affect on attention. It’s a mixed bag.
    Up to the user, as well, to make sure not to focus too much on only small portion of learners.
    BTW, audience participation can help to focus attention on things I might have missed. Not always.
    In sum, I think it takes intention and practice to use it while enhancing attention. easy to fail at times.
    still, having growth mindset , not ready to give up because I’m not yet pro.

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  8. Continuing:
    Need to intimacy:
    yes, there was a noticeable sense at first that the iPad and the awareness of wider audience was an initial barrier.
    this was at maker faire, not school. I’m not ready to periscope at school.
    However, the barrier quickly dissolved as I involved the subjects with my process of filming and feedback from audience. We became a team in the filming process. The intimacy changed from one on one to us and them sometimes. Like child and I were collaborating on the authentic task of presenting our work together. this was a phenomenal experience. The intimacy changed and heightened simultaneously. In the end, I found it strengthens. Sometimes the intimacy between teacher and student can be a hindrance . Sometimes, not always. Same between parent and child. Not always appropriate to alter the mix, but wanted you to consider that altering it can add new elements, not always detract.

  9. Continuing:
    need for purpose:
    Yes, guarantee that teachers will make it about themselves often. it’s a new, added way for (sometimes intentional, sometimes not) self serving behavior among our profession. It may be an amplified way for icky self promotion that becomes an invasive species of self promotion.
    as always, it’s partly and mostly incumbent upon audience/consumers of this new media to consume wisely and critically. If someone is being icky, call them out. Question them, avoid them. but, valid concern that it will tak off like wildfire and be a lasting sensation that has a lasting negative effect on our classrooms. I agree that it is a risk.
    Personally, I would not use it for attention on me. as much as I enjoy attention, I get a bigger kick out of shining the light on others. many are like me. we could be overpowered on the periscope in the classroom circuit, but then again we are accustomed to being out of the limelight and ignored often. Maybe people like me have the responsibility to model what we want to encourage. It’s a responsibility I’m not ready to take on this platform (periscope in the classroom). But I will keep using it elsewhere when appropriate.

  10. Continuing:
    Need for permission from parents:
    when it comes to permission, that’s where I see the problem really lies. Permission could be given without full understanding of the risk. and I’m not ready to be like a surgeon who tells the patient that she may not survive the operation, or may recover but be impaired for life. just not going to do it. None of us know what others might use the video for or when or how. even while avoiding faces names and so forth, even revealing the town or the school could be risky. I’m just not ready yet. not sure if I will be. school and teaching have enough risk as it is.
    I’m not risk averse by nature. I have never had a comfort zone. but I choose my risks. Right now feel like I have a full plate. Will continue to take risks intentionally and with awareness.
    very valid concern , in sum.

  11. I really appreciate your thoughts here Pernille. I think sometimes people/educators get super excited about a new tool or technology without thinking it through. I certainly have been guilty of this. It is so important to be thoughtful. I do love how you shared your thought process and reflections with us. I do think Periscope has a great place in education as we are mindful as to how and why we as educators are using it. It would be a great way to share an event or experience at school when there are parents who are unable to make it. I love to use a tool like this when my students are communicating with other students around the globe and sharing their daily life and culture. Periscope can and will offer wonderful opportunities in education. As always we just have to be thoughtful as to its purpose and the goals for students in their learning.

    • Amy, I like your idea of sharing a an event when a parent is unable to attend. I was specifically thinking about my Back to School Night presentation.

  12. Continuing:
    need for permission from speakers:
    Valid, too.
    I’ve never been a paid speaker or spoken at a paid event, but have watched a few on periscope.
    a few thoughts:
    No idea if permission was given or not, is that my responsibility to find out before viewing, I wonder?
    also, hearing speakers that I had only read before, I found their spoken remarks repeated or at best predictable.
    Still, made me more aware of their presence, and this may make me more inclined to pay to see them.
    also, didn’t have patience to watch whole thing. Not same As being there. I think speakers and producers should grant permission as long as it is agreed that it won’t be used to profit. Who knows, maybe the person viewing at home will have the conveniene of being able to share more widely which serves to promote rather than detract.
    always a risk though.

  13. One added concern, and it is morbid/cynical/paranoid:
    periscoping your learning space and location risks giving out details of your building that malicious persons (whether insane or troubled or psychopathic or whatever) could use to plan out attack on school. see? Paranoid. Morbid. cynical. what are the chances? are they chances we are willing to take?
    I’m not. but I’m also not ready to judge those who are. waiting to think it through.
    would love to hear thoughts on this.

  14. As with anything that is truly disruptive, we need to think, “What need is this filling that is not already met?” I have enjoyed Periscope as well (and save anything that is actually worthwhile to my camera roll/upload to youtube) There are many times when videotape might be better, especially since you cannot zoom in and out on an Android phone (or at least mine, anyway) If the fact of seeing something live is truly monumental and will add to the students’ engagement, then I would be for viewing. I agree with you; there are many drawbacks to filming your students live. We need to think about the limits we place, such as who can view, who can comment.

    The single best Periscope I have seen was from Katmai National Park in Alaska. A ranger Periscoped with 8 brown bears in the background. She answered many, many questions, and it was truly memorable and immediate. Yes, I could have seen a video or a webcam, but the ranger made it truly interactive.

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  16. Thank you so much for writing this! I have explained similar concerns about bringing Periscope into the classroom all month to fellow teachers and administrators! I absolutely love it as a means of professional development, collaborating with other teachers, walking with a stranger through Madrid etc. but I’m with you on this one: When the kids arrive, my live-streaming will come to a screeching halt and my students will always have the safety net of veto-power, editing, and approval when it comes to sharing out our learning.

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  19. Pernille,
    Great post. I wrote about my use of Periscope recently and it addresses a lot of your points: http://thecasalos.blogspot.com/2015/07/periscope-school.html

    The first time I used it was during a period with 5th graders doing all independent work, finishing up projects. I started the class with an explanation and had students tell me ahead of time if they didn’t want me to walk over to them
    After that first day, I only used it for final presentations. No student was required to be Periscope’d and we always reviewed what Periscope meant before any live broadcast.

    I did also use it a few time during live performances. These are events that get actively tweeted about so Periscope was the natural next step. My school is very active in tweeting events so Periscope is very much in line what that approach. We are an opt-out District meaning by registering a student parents are granting us permission to do things like take photos, post things online, etc. For those that opt-out we have a very up-to-date list that all teachers have and we ensure the wishes of those parents, for their child not to be photographed, are taken very seriously (out of 400 students we had 5 opt-out last year).

    You are right, though, with all your concerns. Last school year Periscope was brand new (launched in late March, early April I believe) so it was very much a learning curve on the fly.

    I will still use Periscope, but I think I’ll use it much the same way I have. For things like final presentations, always with student permission, never required, and so forth. It will never take precedence over learning, nor would never be an “always on” tool. As with anything, there is a time and place, and I think Periscope has great value for those planned, staged moments, where we can let students share beyond the walls.

    My 5th graders loved it. We had great conversations about audience, feedback, speaking to the audience in front of you but also being away of those you can’t see. The ones that agreed to be Periscope’d enjoyed the experience and we had great conversations as a whole class, even among those who weren’t comfortable doing it, about the technology and what it all means, so to speak.

    But again, it’s all new and a learning process. My Periscope use might fade out if it isn’t enhancing the student experience. But my students loved it last year so I’m definitely planning on using it in the Fall (although “fall” might actually mean Spring…)

  20. I absolutely agree with you. The need for privacy is real and is a legal issue. Additionally, I cannot imagine a principal coming into your classroom and see you ‘Scoping and think you were doing your job–which is to teach the students right in front of you and not the world.

  21. Excellent and much needed article! Yes I worry as the year begins that some teachers may not immediately think about these considerations. The dangers are lack of privacy, parental permission, exposing students to tons of inappropriate people out there, etc. I do think it could be a really important PD tool with some creativity infused into it.

  22. Thank you for bringing up all of these points about Periscope. I’ve been intrigued by it since I first saw it at EdCampLeadership a few weeks ago, but I definitely have reservations about using it with kids. I’m thinking it might be useful for sharing PTA meetings with parents who can’t attend, as long as everyone at the meeting is aware that it’s being filmed. But GHO might still be better for that.

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