7 Things To Know Before You Live Stream Your Classroom

     If you're thinking about, or even required to, live stream your classroom, there are seven important things you should consider first.

1. Live streaming leaves teachers open to privacy violations.

      Live streaming your classroom puts students and teachers at risk of sharing personally identifiable information. Two federal laws work together to protect students. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) place strict limits on what information a school can collect and share about students. Anything considered personally identifiable information (PII), including images, is on the table. Violations can cause districts to lose funding.

     A loophole is that schools can share "directory information" without a parent's consent, including a child's:
  • name
  • address
  • telephone number
  • date of birth
  • place of birth
  • height
  • weight
  • dates of attendance
  • major field of study
  • participation in sports activities and teams
  • degrees and awards
  • previous schools attended
     That's a lot of personally identifiable information! The safeguard for parents is that schools have to inform them of what directory info they plan to share and give them a reasonable time to opt-out.

     All of this puts parents in the driver's seat, as they should be, when it comes to sharing information about their child. 

    There are countless ways that personally identifiable information can be accidentally shared during a school day. A birthday chart, small groups of students based on an IEP, a SPED teacher coming to the door to pick up a student, even calling a child's name could all be deemed unintended violations. 

     Consider your own privacy as a teacher. Everything you say or do, every private conversation with a child or another adult will be filmed and possibly overheard.

2. There's potential for misuse by viewers.

     Live streaming your classroom into a home opens everything that is said, done, or seen to those who might misuse it, including pedophiles. We were only a couple of weeks into distance learning during the COVID-19 quarantine when several instances of sexual photos, racist comments, and other vulgarities came into virtual classrooms without warning. We even gave it a name: Zoombombing.

     When you live stream your classroom, it is open to anyone who can access the stream. Parents, students, and guests in the home can record you, screenshot you and your students, and then manipulate it for wrong purposes. They can criticize, critique, and share on other social media that you don't even know about. Children's images have even shown up on inappropriate websites. Once it's on the internet, it is there forever.

     The most common distance learning platforms are highly monitored and controlled. Schools vet them very carefully. However, no streaming service is 100% safe. If you can stream it, they can hack it. The more you stream, the more hackable content is available and at risk. 

3. It's not always conducive to teaching K-12.

     Educators are trying hard to make it all work. What I'm hearing from teachers who live stream is that when they're standing so they're always in front of the camera, they are no longer teaching naturally. 

     Most K-12 teachers are not lecturers. We move about, interact with our students, refer to visual aids around the room, and work with small groups. Standing in one spot in a classroom is not natural, comfortable, or helpful to students.

4. Teaching in two different formats is ineffective.

     Teachers are learning new ways to teach. Recording yourself teaching lessons, called asynchronous learning, helps students because they can rewatch the clips multiple times when it's convenient for them. Synchronous learning, interacting in real time with students over a video conferencing platform, supports building relationships - especially important during a pandemic - and a more natural give-and-take like in the classroom. 

     Some districts are allowing - even requiring - teachers to use both formats simultaneously, calling it a "blended" or "hybrid" model. Teachers are reporting that it is frustrating at best, and ineffective at worst. It seems that both groups of students are at a disadvantage.

     Students online at home are bored and unengaged while waiting for classroom tasks to be completed, for recess, or for lunch. There is a good bit of downtime during a typical school day. Imagine being a remote learner and having to watch the stream for the whole day. 

     Students in the classroom must wait for the remote kids to have questions answered, get directions for digital responses, and have their fair share of the teacher's time. 

     To further complicate an already difficult situation, at least one district expects online kids to be brought into small groups. So we'll have small socially-distanced groups of kids around a table with one or more laptops sitting on the table with a child's head onscreen. 

     Teachers are finding it an unrealistic task to track engagement and understanding of their remote students while also having students in front of them.

5. Inadequate technology can create problems.

     It's no secret that many classrooms and students don't have the technology they need. Sometimes students don't have wi-fi available at home or can't afford devices. Classrooms may have to share limited devices with the rest of the school. This alone makes live streaming far more challenging.

     The lack of adequate technology shows up in other ways. If there is a fixed camera in the classroom, the teacher may very well be tethered to one spot during the day. A noisy HVAC system can make serious competition for a teacher who is wearing a mask. 

6. Protocols may be hard to remember during emergencies.

     The best protocols in the world are useless if they're not followed. In a classroom emergency, teachers tend to react immediately to assist the child. It's likely that they will forget to turn off, unplug, or mute technology for privacy's sake. This means that misbehavior will be streamed online, as will medical emergencies, personal embarrassments, and emotional moments.

7.  Teachers will live with the pressure of being observed all day, every day.

     Being observed by an administrator is a judgment on not just your content presentation, but on your dress, your manner with kids, your tone of voice, your content knowledge, and a myriad of other elements. Most workers in any field are observed, of course. But, all day, every day? 

     The stress of being observed nonstop by anyone who is watching, most of whom aren't educators, will be tremendous. It's likely that many teachers won't be able to stand the pressure. Always being on stage, always having to perform at 100% will be overwhelming. 

 Consider carefully.    

     None of these points are to criticize live streaming as a concept. Communicating and collaborating virtually is keeping businesses afloat, giving isolated people a vital window to the outside world, and helping us through an extremely difficult time in our country. 

     It's important that educators consider the risks involved before diving in. If you'd like a one-page quick reference sheet to share with administrators and planning committees, CLICK HERE. 


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