Persicope in the Classroom

In education, just as in society in general, there is a healthy community of early adopters.


The same people who line up for hours outside electronic stores to get the latest gadget are also in classrooms. They’re the educators who want to be the first to try something new. They’re willing to put with the annoyances of beta-testing and dealing with debugging to be the first to use the latest tech tool in their classroom.

Hot new tech tool Periscope has recently caught the of all those geeky early adopting educators:

For the uneducated, Periscope is a live streaming video mobile app for android and IOS that was purchased by twitter in March of 2015 for a reported $100 million. Since it’s release on March 26th it has started to become integrated and used in a variety of ways.

When it comes to new technology early adopters are risk takers. They want to try new stuff and see if they can make it work. They don’t always have an end goal in mind for a new tool, but they’re confident that they can figure it out as they go. This mindset isn’t always appropriate for schools, where risk taking isn’t always welcomed.

Student safety is always an educators first priority. Putting students at risk, even unintentionally, is never acceptable. Before broadcasting on Periscope I encourage educators to consider the following:


What About Privacy?

There are some legitimate privacy issues for educators who use Periscope in the classroom. Because Periscope is owned by Twitter, the video stream of your classroom is now available for Twitter to use an analyze according to it’s TOS and privacy guidelines. This means sharing the video with “third parties” who can use it for various commercial purposes.

Periscope is live and so more educators have less control. Students who inadvertently walk into the video stream will have their image accidentally broadcast. Unlike other video or pictures there are no “takebacks” with Periscope. Once a student image is broadcast it is out there for all viewers to see.

Periscope provides a lot of contextual location data. Educators can turn off location services on Periscope but a lot of unintended location “clues” will show up in in a dynamic video screen. Think about all the signs in the background, the weather, the kind of vegetation, etc. Even just the fact that it is day or night.

Why Is Periscope Better?

There is nothing new about educators using video in the classroom or even video streaming in schools. Is Periscope better than those other methods or is it just new and shiny?

Over the past four years we’ve livestreamed a variety of school events using UStream. USteam allows us to share school events, (e.g. Grade Eight Graduation) in HD, with interested community members or families that can’t attend.

Even if educators aren’t interested in livestreaming there’s a host of other ways they can share video in the classroom. Recording a video and tweeting it out or uploading it to YouTube is almost as easy as Periscope, and has the advantage of giving educators greater control over what is seen when and by who.

Educators who want to use Periscope needs to think carefully about why they are using it. What’s the advantage of Periscope over other video sharing methods? It’s more convenient and works well with minimum bandwidth. Is that enough to offset the risks?

What’s The Bigger Message?

What we do in the classroom should align with our larger philosophy of learning. Does Periscope?

  • Disposable Learning? Periscope videos are temporary like a Snapchat message. If your followers don’t see them live they’re available for viewing for 24 hours and then they’re deleted (although, of course, nothing is ever really deleted). This is a powerful message to students. The evidence of their learning is easily disposable or even that learning itself is ephemeral. Is this what we want them to think?
  • Feedback? Isn’t part of the value of using video in the classroom being able to go back and learn from them? If videos are deleted how can that be useful in the classroom?
  • Is Everything Public? One of the features I like most about blogging is that students got to write privately, make and learn from their mistakes, and choose when they are ready to share. Where is the room for privately making mistakes in a classroom where student work is being livestreamed?
  • As Jessy Irwin points out educators may be complicit in “…ensuring that today’s students will have less privacy than any other generation that came before them, threatening to make privacy and anonymity unattainable for future generations”. Is the use of apps like Periscope just another part of the way we are desensitizing students to surveillance? Are we, day by day, teaching students they there is no space where they cannot be recorded and their activities broadcast and shared?

A recent school assembly threw up an object lesson on how far we have to go with student data privacy.

My school is an enthusiastic participant in Jump Rope for Heart. I support the work of The Heart and Stroke Foundation, and on “Jump Rope Day” my students will be skipping and I will be encouraging them as they raise funds. But it was during our Jump Rope for Heart kick off assembly that I heard something that made me shake my head in amazement.

Not long ago there was a steady parade of children knocking at my door and asking for donations for a variety of causes. That doesn’t happen anymore. Shifting societal attitudes combined with parental concerns about safety means schools now insist that students don’t solicit donations “door to door”. Not even from neighbours they know. Read More

silencing students

Student Voice, a cornerstone of “modern” education, is actually over a hundred years old. Dr. Dennis Harper describes Student Voice as “…giving students the ability to influence learning to include policies, programs, contexts and principles”. Student Voice can take many different forms in education. It can be as simple and “grass roots” as peer teaching or as formal and bureaucratic as giving students seats on school boards.

Whatever form it takes, the underlying principle behind student voice is that the ideas, opinions and views of students are important and valued. Students are not subordinates, they are valued partners who deserve to be heard. However, that this isn’t always true. There’s growing evidence that many schools really aren’t that thrilled with some students expressing their “voice”. Read More


Canada lags the rest of the world when it comes to protecting personal data privacy. This is true both in general, and also when it comes to children’s data privacy and the protection of data privacy in Canadian classrooms.

Canadian educators are hindered in helping students protect their privacy by a lack of clear guidance and a jurisdictional mishmash. Education is a provincial responsibility, so education records are governed by provincial law. However, most online education sites are international, and so fall under federal privacy legislation.

Privacy in Canada is governed federally by The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). Unlike in the US, the unique privacy needs of children aren’t protected in Canada by specific legislation. However, a recent development has given some insight into what Canadian teachers can do to protect student’s online data privacy. Read More


danah boyd is quite clear that teens use social media by default rather than design. Teenagers prefer to spend time together, face to face, but societal changes (e.g. schools outside their neighbourhoods, gated communities, stranger danger and curfew and loitering laws) make it difficult for them to “hang out”. They fill that gap with social  media, connecting online to replace the preferred real life network. Read More

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