Student Privacy on #PeriscopeEDU

I’ve been using Periscope for over a month, putting it into practice two days after its release at #edcampSouthJersey.  There, I was able to Periscope the session board, the raffle, and other things.  Since then, I have used the app several times to live-stream my presentations, and those of friends, for our colleagues who may not be in attendance.  However, most fascinating to me has been the use of the app with students.  (Pro tip: Feel free to substitute “Meerkat” every time I say Periscope, depending on your preference.)

As conventional wisdom goes, students tend to exert more effort when they know they have an audience.  My PLN has helped my students with suggestions about portfolio design, argumentative writing, digital citizenship, even soccer.  Students have even begun to ask me to Periscope their activities in class.

Keep in mind that I am acting as a human filter.  Since the app’s release, it has undergone a couple of updates, which allow users to restrict comments only to people they follow, or to leave the broadcast on private.  I tend to go with the former, as 99% of the people I follow are educators.  Since I have begun using this option, the occurrences of foul language and annoying refrigerator references have been eliminated.  Now, I feel comfortable projecting my phone onto a screen for all to see (still haven’t tried it though).

Why not just allow my students to use it in class on their own devices, or install it on the school iPads?  The short answer is that there is too much room for error.  The people my students follow are not the same people whom I follow.  Even if there were a magical way for me to go through and approve my students’ followers, it would be a very likely disaster that someone would forget to enable that third option.  Someone may say something awful to them, and I just don’t want that on my conscience.  Yes, my students are all over 13. To my understanding, I am well within my rights under COPPA to use it in this way; however, I don’t think it would be very ethical.  I will revisit COPPA shortly, but speaking of ethics…

My Criteria for Periscoping with Students

Periscope is a new app, although the process of livestreaming has been around for some time.  However, with all of the hype surrounding Periscope, many teachers (like yours truly) are learning about the process and curious to see what it can do for education.  My personal opinion, after more than a month of usage, is that it’s a total game-changer.  Usually, I lose interest in shiny new things after a few weeks, but I think Periscope (and Meerkat) are here to stay.

When I started using the app, I would film over my students’ shoulders and not show faces, in order to protect their privacy.  This is still a good idea to do when in doubt.  However, I have come up with four simple criteria to decide whether or not I will show faces:

  1. The student has a publicity release on file.  Our county sends home publicity release forms with students on the first day of school.  The parents have the option to check whether or not they give permission for their child to be shown online or in any other medium.  An affirmative response is mandatory for student athletes (who account for approx 3/4 of our middle school…hee!).
  2. The student is 13 or older.  Told ya we’d come back to COPPA 🙂  I teach 8th grade English, so all of my students met this criterion by October.
  3. The student gives his/her consent to being livestreamed.  This is probably the most important of all, because it is basic human respect.  We should not film those who do not want to be filmed, regardless of age.  Period.
  4. I disable replays. Mostly from my own overprotectiveness, I immediately tap on the progress bar as the Periscope prepares for playback.  This disables anyone from going back and watching it.  However, I have also auto-saved my Periscopes to my camera roll by clicking on the gear icon in the top right corner of my profile page, and then enabling auto-save.  If, for some reason, it becomes necessary to share the video later, I have it on my phone for easy uploading to YouTube or whatever.  (Pro-tip: This may be very helpful for flipped instruction.)

Of course, there are exceptions to the rules.  For example, part of the reason the sports players have to sign the release form is because spectators might post videos online.  So, it’s expected that if you play, you may be taped.  I therefore have no problem Periscoping students from grades 6-8 playing school sports.  (Yet another pro-tip: It’s nice to have this video for your school website or YouTube page.)

Periscope is a fantastic tool, with many great implications, but we have to be sure to keep respect for students at the forefront of our minds.  Again, when in doubt, it’s best to leave out any identifying information.  I’ve loved using the app to make my classroom a bit more transparent and glean suggestions from my PLN, and am looking forward to what the future holds with livestreaming.

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