You know, I work with very talented teachers who do some very remarkable things in their classrooms. The trouble is, I didn't always hear about these remarkable things, because we didn't have a vehicle for sharing that kind of information. And, if a teacher who is in school every day isn't aware of the wonderful things happening in classrooms other than his or her own, you can bet that parents are missing out on a lot of that information as well. So, we've started taking advantage of the free streaming service at UStream.com to broadcast a weekly news program to share information with the members of our school community, and, by golly, it's catching on!
Each Friday afternoon, members of our 8th grade Tech Team become our school newscasters. While our on-air personality reads the news from various classrooms, our behind-the-scenes techie mans the UStream controls, and changes from live video to still pics and pre-recorded videos (usually student-made iMovies) all while monitoring sound levels. While our first few broadcasts were, admittedly, rough around the edges, they are certainly improving with each week's endeavor. Our newscast generally includes special projects from various classrooms, school sports news, special announcements from teachers and/or administrators, and a list of students and teachers celebrating birthdays.
At first, I was very grateful that our classroom teachers were being good sports about accommodating my newest tech project at the expense of precious instructional time. I've since some to find out from many of those teachers that their students look forward to each week's broadcast, and are more attentive during those ten minutes than any other time of the day. So, while I'm still grateful, I'm also so happy that this project has become such an important part of our school culture that the story details I once had to seek out from teachers are now regularly being brought to my attention with requests to be included in the Friday News. Don't you just love it when you realize that your hard work actually matters?!
Sign up for a free account at http://ustream.tv. Set up your channel by providing some basic information about what you plan to broadcast, your program name, and your channel name, and even upload a logo for your channel. If you choose to use the online broadcaster, you can then be "on the air" in a matter of minutes, using just your webcam and microphone.
http://www.ustream.tv/producer, and you can plan a more multi-faceted program by uploading still images, videos and music for inclusion in your live broadcast. UStream Producer will even give you the option of recording your live broadcast so it can be viewed on the UStream website at a later date by anyone who may have missed the original broadcast, or who simply wants a rerun. You can even upload a series of images to run as a slide show any time your channel is offline. Worried about security? UStream will allow you to password protect your channel, so you don't have to be concerned about who's seeing what you're putting online.
Now, as with any free service, there will be limitations as to how fancy you can get. For example, with UStream using two cameras or creating a picture in picture broadcast is just for paid subscribers. Too bad, you're thinking, right? Not to worry--there's a work around for that. Download the free program CamTwist at http://camtwist.en.softonic.com/mac (I think PC's use manycam.com) and you can create some pretty sophisticated newscasts. Include weather data at the bottom or your screen. Add a logo or message while broadcasting live video. Even show a movie as a picture in picture while your anchorman reads the news story.
I can't stress enough how fun and exciting this will be for your students. While adding the extras can be a little intimidating, and will require some practice, a basic webcast can be done quickly and easily. Even your most reluctant writers and readers will want to step up to the plate to be a part of your news broadcast! And best of all, everyone in your school community will know about the wonderful things your students are learning. How cool is that?!