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Flu TV…Instant (and Free) Customized Video Channels For H1N1 Schools

05/01/2009

As hundreds of schools across America close for indefinite periods due to the H1N1 virus and thousands of students are sent home, education need not stop

Instant video streams are available to public schools, at no cost, to continue the learning process. The power of live Internet streaming video per instructor, per class, to selected students and live should be realized today.

No one knows how long classes will be suspended in those parts of the nation affected by the spread of this strain of flu.  But all a teacher needs is a web camera, a broadband connection and a connection to UStream.tv or JustIn.tv to broadcast, in real-time and interactively, the day’s lesson.

Many school districts have established broadcast outlets for regular television viewing.  That’s yesterday’s technology.  The frustrating limitations of having just one educational channel in a school district, which is limited to one program at any given moment, need not be accepted when thousands of students, at all grade levels and in multiple classes are unable to attend their schools.

Yesterday’s educational channel limitations can be transcended by utilizing the web to teach as many classes as a school wishes, simultaneously, live, with students being able to view and text back or call teachers from home.  The use of multiple streaming video channels would cost the school nothing more than paying the teacher for his or her time, a cost which is already budgeted.

What’s more, given the basic equipment needed to broadcast, it takes about 10 minutes to set up each streaming presentation, which can last as long as necessary to get the message out.

Since the goal of closing 140 public schools in Ft. Worth was to avoid large concentrations of students, in an effort to avoid transmission of the flu, students who have high speed internet connections can watch from home, and those that do not can get together in smaller (and less risky) groups to watch their teachers convey the lesson of the day.

Valuable days of education need not be lost given the multidimensional opportunities to leverage the internet to get around the limitations of a brick and mortar school which is closed due to public health concerns.

It is the unlimited flexibility of live Internet video that makes it so appealing as a way to continue operations when schools are confronted with emergency situations like the one currently gripping the world. Literally hundreds of classes can be transmitted at the same time, for all grade levels, from anywhere.

What’s more, these streaming classes can be recorded and played again, at will, for later viewing.

Emergency situations often create great opportunities.  It often takes defining moments such as this to move society ahead.  We have the chance to make live Internet video a meaningful source to supplement education in times of national, state or local crisis.  This “distance learning” is different than the models of the past because it allows for personalized teaching, by instructors who literally know each in  their audience…and who can participate in a conversational way, in real time, with all of their students.

The H1N1 virus may not be the “big pandemic” scientists and doctors are so worried about.  But it can help us leverage technology to prepare for that time, when it does arrive.

Is your school district using this technology?  Please send us a comments and let us know.

Update 5.3.09…According to NPR on May 2, 2009, up to 400 schools are closed due to H1N1 influenza, affecting more than 250,000 students across the nation.  Without school boards using technology to step up to the challenges presented by this situation, a lot of learing is suspended.  According to the Fort Worth school district, students are texting a teacher to keep up with their lessons. As shown above, much, much more  can be done. The students understand the opportunities presented by technology. Their message is, “embrace it to teach us.”

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jonathan permalink
    05/01/2009 6:53 pm

    OF course this will never happen. If you want examples of how to improve public school, just think of the opposite of pretty much everything they do.

    Why not just homeschool instead?

    Kids thesedays can’t even think for themselves. Schools are training them to be complacent drones or devious cheaters. Here in Plano, with some of the “best” schools in the nation, they just stopped giving zeroes to cheaters, saying it was “too harsh”. Education is becoming standardized, despite humanity being a diverse creature.

    Unlike most kids, when I was young (by the age of 8) I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I’ve become that now, a small business owner. When I was in middle and high school, I remember asking things to my teacher like why we had to learn about flower sex (reproductive traits), and how that would help me with a job. They’d give some ridiculous “if you want to be a botanist”, and other nonsense, to which I’d reply that I wanted to run a business, and they’d just stand there baffled looking stupid. Then in the end, they say that it will help with entering college (I would note I was never tested on such a thing to enter college).

    So in the end middle and high schools try to make “renaissance men” out of kids who really don’t have the talent to be a jack-of-all-trades. This in turn is followed up by an even more ridiculously stupid university system that takes it further.

    After all, when you get a business degree, for example, you’ve already DECIDED on your career path. Yet nonetheless nearly half the time (credits) is spent on things already learned in high school: english, history, etc. That doubling of credit requirements for things UNRELATED to the career path is ridiculous as well.

    I remember laughing so hard when I heard a friend had to take an oceanography class to finish his business degree. Or my sister had to take a geology class to finish her business degree. I mean think about that, what the hell use is knowing about sedentary rocks or ocean floors, for example, going to have for a job?

    Nothing but wasted time and money. The inefficiency is there on purpose. It helps prevent people from being efficient, saving more of their money, etc. All so they can work a job for 60 years, and mismanage their money in ways everyone else thinks is “investing”: the average “worker” buys a mortgage with 7% interest, paying over 1.2 million in interest on average over 45 years (rather than living at home a few years extra and buying the house in cash, debt-free, for example after SAVING which nobody does anymore), or if they do manage to make and keep some extra cash they invest it in the “stock market” scam (it used to be, when you bought “stock” you got literal stock in the store, the hammers on the shelves, the cows in the pen, etc. now you get nothing, it’s just corporate currency essentially printed off the corporate press).

    Anyways, you get the point. Much bigger problems with education. They have to get the basics done first, and we’re a far far way from that. There’s a reason why statistics have shown people homeschooled for more than 2 years, despite being without the “advanced tech” of schools, rank in the top 15%. I went public till high school, then home schooled, entered a university at 15 years old, and run my own six figure business. I was a “slacker” at school supposedly, and teachers who I always challenged (cuz I knew their teaching styles were BS) said I’d never amount to anything. Hah. Now all my public school friends are jobless and have no initiative. Half of them are in college, dropping out, etc. and only maybe 1 in 10 knows what they “want to do” with their life.

    We have a crisis of character. Schools should be job exploration areas, for now it couldn’t hurt these kids to homeschool a bit. Instead, schools try to teach everyone everything, which translates to teaching nothing.

    If everyone is special, nobody is.

  2. 05/02/2009 10:15 pm

    Bravo! This is the kind of thinking on one’s feet that the schools ought to jump at!

    Jonathan, this is hardly the time to think about the overall problems we have with education in general. Assuming the school programs are better than nothing (which is the choice here), this is a perfect solution to the problem of lost time.

    I question whether either of the sites Mitch recommends is scalable enough to handle the sudden demand for bandwidth; but, however much it could take on, it should be used by the schools rather than leave their kids with an education deficit that grows by the day.

    Great idea, Mitch!

  3. 05/02/2009 11:55 pm

    On 5.1.09, the Fort Worth Indepdendent School District posted the following news release, which I found on 5.3.09…

    “Fort Worth ISD Students Establish Text Messaging Study Group”

    “A group of Fort Worth ISD students at one middle school has established a “study chain” via text messaging in the wake of the District’s closure due to the H1N1-Influenza A.

    Michael Sanderson, a science teacher at M. L. Kirkpatrick Middle School, wanted people to know that “our students are not just treating this as a holiday.”

    According to Sanderson, 8th graders have set up a study chain via text messaging to make sure they are ready when they finally get to take the Science TAKS.

    “I was up until midnight last night answering questions for them, and was back on about 10 this morning,” Sanderson reports. “They are actually upset they cannot be at school.”

    The teacher credits the great campus climate established by Kirkpatrick’s leadership.”
    _____________________________________________

    If the students can use texting, that is a sign they are hungry to use technology to keep up their learning. Instant video programs, of the type mentioned in the main post, is a way to leverage available technology to enable a broader reach from teacher to students in this difficult time. SharedEmergency has e-mailed officials of the school district with the article.

    –Mitch Chester

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