On the horizon… Live-streaming!

A friend of mine is really into 3D printing right now.  He supported a new 3D printer campaign through a crowdsourcing site and was able to purchase one of the first models.  After receiving his printer last week, he’s been excitedly creating all sorts of objects with his new printer.  Despite a few initial sidesteps, he wanted to demonstrate the process to other people, especially the other supporters of the crowdsourced project who didn’t receive their printers yet.  While he had recorded a few videos on the process, he wondered whether he could share the event live to people.  He emailed me and a few other technology geeks on campus and we discussed possible solutions.  It wasn’t long before he was became one of the first live-streaming 3D printers in the world.

For those of you who may not know, live-streaming involves broadcasting live video online.  Imagine you’re watching a video on YouTube. Instead of viewing some prerecorded event, however, you’re watching the activity live.  The process has been around for a while.  For instance, Ustream has offered live-streaming services since 2007.  But the landscape has changed.  With the introduction of Meerkat and Periscope, live-streaming has gone mobile.  Now, any event that happens anywhere can be live-streamed to the world.  Attending a conference or concert? You could live-stream it to your friends who couldn’t attend.  Getting married?  Live-stream the joyous occasion to all of your relatives.  Seeing some historical event unfold in front of you?  Live-stream it and share the experience.  The opportunities are endless.

And that’s the concern. While live-streaming presents innovative possibilities educationally and socially, it will inevitably be misused.  And then we’ll start to see all sorts of rules and regulations about live-streaming.  For instance, I recently visited another institution and there were “No Google Glass” signs posted in various locations.  At some point, live-streaming will be banned in certain places or for specific occasions.  I can imagine “No live-streaming” signs being posted outside public restrooms and restaurants.

Despite the potential misuse, there are real educational opportunities with live streaming.  Writing for Education Week Teacher, Starr Sackstein identified five ways to use live streaming in your classroom.  These include live streaming lessons and partnering with other classes from a distance.  As a teacher educator, I see great possibilities with visiting international classes or observing master teachers through live streaming.

It’s important to remember that the process, at least from a mobile standpoint, is at its infancy.  Using Periscope and Meerkat can be kind of like visiting the “Wild West.”  Neither app is able to work without Twitter and the public nature of the apps can potentially open users to odd interactions.  My 3D printing friend received some odd requests from a few viewers when he live streamed a recent printing endeavor with Periscope.

The two mobile live streaming apps seem very similar but the have some minor differences.  For instance, Meerkat is public only and live only, meaning that anyone can see what you live stream and there is no way to save streams online.  The live streams can be reshared to others via Twitter, which means that any live stream can shared to a person’s Twitter followers even though they aren’t the one actually attending the event.  This means that live-streaming historic events can go viral as they’re happening.  Periscope provides a little more flexibility and customization.  With Periscope, live-streams can be kept private and rewatched for up to 24 hours after an event.  To check out more differences, check out the recent reviews on Slate and USNews.

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