Thursday, February 16, 2017

How Can We Reach Absent Students?

After 12 years in the classroom, I find that I still have many questions, many areas of the craft where I still need to reflect and consider on my methods.  One area which has always left me pondering is how best to ensure that students who are absent truly understand what we discussed in class. Especially on days where a new concept has been introduced, or on the few days where our classroom might feature a more formal seminar, the only options seemingly available for absent students to gain the information were study sessions after school, or for the student to talk to his or her fellow classmates.  Recently, however, I have started using live streaming, and I'm excited about the possibilities that this will offer.

The How
I've long had a webcam through which students in our class have communicated with politicians, professors, and (hopefully soon) other classes.  Now, thanks to a little bit of help from our technology department, I am able to put this webcam to use for a live stream of our class.  Not every class is streamed, of course; as teachers we all know we have those days where students are working on test corrections, reviewing for a test, etc., where little would be accomplished from actually tuning in.  But on days when new concepts, discussion, explanation of an assignment, and the like are being covered, the stream is live.

We set up the webcam in the back of the room, and placed the camera so that it captured the whole of the front of the classroom, and kept as many of the kids out of the view as possible.  Going into this endeavor I knew that some parents might not want their students on the stream, so I have placed the camera in such a way so that few students are actually seen.  The start-up for this project took all of 5 minutes, but required the creation of a Youtube Channel.  When ready I simply open my Youtube account, access "Video Manager", and then select "Live Streaming." I then select "Events", and schedule an event.  I title the event with the class and the date, which makes it easy for students and parents to find the day missed.  After hitting "Go Live Now" Google Hangouts is automatically opened, and we are ready to stream.  The stream is accessible in live form through the Youtube channel (which is linked on my class website), but once the stream has been terminated, the captured video automatically uploads to the channel for later viewing.

What You Will Need
1. Webcam- can be purchased for as little as $20.  Make sure that the webcam has a multi-directional microphone, however; you will need this to record your voice, and it will allow you to move throughout the room.
2. Youtube Channel- this is easily created, and the link can be posted on your website or Google Classroom.

Things to Consider
Based on my initial efforts with this new resource, I have found a few things that should be considered when implementing this into your croom:
1. Make sure when scheduling the event through Youtube (see instructions above), click on "Advanced Settings" and turn off the "live chat".  Trust'll thank me later.
2. Strongly consider making this resource known to parents, both so that they can help keep tabs on student work, but also because it will give them an opportunity to let you know if you might need to move their child.  Often school acceptable use policies will take care of this potential issue, but it is a good way to ensure that you are covered.
3. Remind the kids that, while streaming, the microphone and webcam is picking up every word they say, and everything they do.
4. Watch for copyright issues.  I often use clips of video footage in class, but if it is live streamed the original makers of the video may report the use to Youtube, which will flag your recorded discussion.

When streaming class I often want the kids to see what is on my computer as opposed to the classroom itself.  In the actual class students can see my projector, but the projector usually does not come through well on the webcam.  Fortunately Google Hangouts allows for screensharing, meaning with one click I can switch to the computer.  In the short time that we've made use of this resource I've already had several students mention that they've tuned into the live stream on a day when they were sick, or ahead of time when they knew they need to leave early.  The benefit to the students seems clear, but I'm also excited for the potential for parents.  Giving the link to the parents allows for them to tune in and have a first hand look at their child's educational experience!  As a parent myself who would love to know what my son is doing from time to time, I see this as a benefit for our parents.


  1. I have played around with recording but not Youtube Live and gotten some good feedback. I need to come down and check this out.

  2. Love this! I always struggle with catching students up who miss school. I occasionally record flipped videos to use in class for stations. These make it easy for students to make up the new content, and are usually 5-7 minutes.

  3. This is a fascinating idea! Keep us posted on how it pans out!

  4. So interesting! I'd love to see an example of how the videos turn out (especially one that includes screensharing) Are any of your Youtube videos available to the public?