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?