viewfinder with slides

To Stream or Not to Stream? That is the Question

Many people immediately saw the benefits of showing only minutes of a whole video with the ease of moving a marker on a slider. Gone are the days of showing too much content because it took such effort to return the tape to exactly the right spot when new kids came in for the same lesson. Now we show the clip and get on with focused content without wasting precious instructional time. If you continue to show entire videos and you’re not teaching a film and lit class, please stop.

In some districts or within some buildings downloading a video and playing it from a USB key or your desktop is much more effective than streaming a video straight from the internet. Part of participating in the online world is realizing what is best for your classroom and also what’s *best for the other people on your network.* Depending on your bandwidth one of these options will best fit your needs.

viewfinder with slides

ViewFinder with Slide DIsk by Kenzie on Flickr

First, you must understand bandwidth. A T1 line and fiber optic cabling are the most common types of connections. Both are actual pipes running underground or on telephone poles. When you are using the internet, packets travel through these pipes. If there are too many packets running back and forth from your school to the proxy servers at your local district building or ESD (where your filters most likely reside) it’ll get crowded (slowing) and collide (dropped connections and other errors).

Downloading a video from an online provider means your pulling it from the internet to your computer or USB key. When you download resources from the internet your computer will use ALL the possible bandwidth at one time. This will take less time than streaming the video but others on your network will notice longer wait times for things like email, internet page loading and assessment. Sometimes connections will drop off altogether. Downloading should be done when there are few people on your school’s network or as you’re planning at home. Most videos are easily transported on a USB key or via online storage.

When you stream a video, you’re using a smaller amount of bandwidth than during a download, but the consumption will last for the length of the video clip. If there isn’t sufficient bandwidth (remember this is dynamic because you are sharing bandwidth with other people in your school or sometimes between buildings) your video will be choppy and/or your sound will not match the picture. While you’re streaming, others may notice longer wait times for anything using the network. Even if you’re seeing the video clearly in your classroom, it doesn’t mean you’re not slowing up others on the network.

It’s difficult to determine the best choice for showing your video. Bandwidth varies from district to district, school to school and even during different times of each day. Unless you have a plethora of bandwidth, planning ahead and downloading your video is probably the best option. You can ask your friendly Information Technology Specialist about the bandwidth available in your district but they probably won’t have an answer for you about whether streaming or downloading is better. Trial and error may be your most effective method of decision. As with all things technology, you should always have a back-up plan.
Down - Moving Average

Tips for Using Video in a Classroom or for Online Learning

Video during your face-to-face or hybrid class can be very useful but the old method of showing a whole video for content purposes is dead (or should be). Sitting kids down with a worksheet and showing them a video has no place in the 21st century classroom.  It’s time to innovate!

  • Use a video clip as an example and then have students create their own. The process of brainstorming, planning content, scripting, casting parts, etc is multidisciplinary and will cement content you’re teaching. Instead of having your students watch videos, have them create different videos and piece them together or present them all as different parts of a whole unit of study.
  • Have students watch a streamed video clip as part of stations. Create a scavenger hunt as a lesson and set up video, documents, games and other activities. As kids visit each station, they are looking for pieces of content and practicing relevant skills. This will also free up your time to work individually with students or in small groups.
  • Have students create a set of questions about a video. Compile the best questions as a formative assessment for students the during the next class period. Kids will think at a higher level about the content in the video and will make it easy for you to see what they got out of it. This is a step closer to student-centered learning.
  • Most online media providers allow students to have accounts. Kids in your classes can use video for research. Of course, the same rules apply for video as with any other resource. They need to cite the source and check their information with other sources for confirmation. While making a point during a speech or with all things persuasive, students can use video to have in impact on their audience just as we do for teaching and learning.

Video in an online class can be important for hitting multiple learning styles and to help students needing to see content in different ways.

  • If you simply jump into a discussion about a longer video in a forum and the content of the video is in no way controversial it’s not likely to lead to any interesting discussion. Instead, have students process streamed content in different ways.
  • They can search your online media provider or YouTube for a follow-up video. Have them tell you what vocabulary from the original video they used in their search. This will help you check their understanding of the content. Create a list of “response videos” as they have on YouTube.
  • If you’re determined to have students discuss the video, put them in small groups. They can discuss the clip or video there but be required to post one collaborative response back to the whole group.
  • Have students team up and create short quizzes using Google Forms or SurveyMonkey based on the content of the video. This will show you how much they remember about the content, forces students to think at a higher level and serves as a formative assessment.

Corin Richards

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