Normally a post on this topic would be classified as a Rant, but I am adapting, so we will call it a lesson learned.
Last Monday, October 6, 2008, we had an in-service day in my district. We had grandiose plans, at least for us, to live stream our in-service training out to the Internet. The theory was that this would spark interest in our faculty and be great practice for some of our future plans.
I test broadcast over uStream.tv the week before in preparation for Monday’s event, all worked well. I advertised heavily on Twitter, posted to uStream.tv, and e-mailed most of my contact list in Outlook to get people to view in on Monday. Sunday night I was testing out a new USB microphone to get around an lack of audio when using my digital camcorder to stream video. That worked well and in the process I found that if I used IE instead of FF 3, my camcorder worked well with sound, BONUS!
Come Monday, I was ready, I made a few minor adjustments to my presentation, and headed out to a quick lunch. Before leaving we hit a minor snag, we had to override the network block on uStream and upload a patch to a colleague’s desktop for him to stream in from his room. No problem, we have done that before and I would be back with 45 minutes to spare before the presentation. During lunch however I was called several times in ten minutes, plans were changing and things were going wrong.
I returned to us scrapping the big uStream showing and just working with a minor in-house demo, because we thought I had the only computer capable of streaming in the district, and it was my own from home. I was getting angry, the thought in my mind was how had the last tech admin let us get so far behind. Our new director was letting us run with ideas and giving us the freedom to experiment with using new technology in the classroom, but hwo could we with the hardware we have?
Not at all happy with the plans being downsized I set up my laptop for the mini-broadcast, but figured I at least knew I would have to rely on my own equipment until the CFF hardware came in. I logged in to uStream and tried my colleague’s show, no luck. He has not broadcast anything yet, so I went to my next plan, have him broadcast over one of my channels.
I logged in and tried to broadcast…nothing. My channel was there, unblocked, but the broadcast pop up was blank. Total panic in the streets occurred at this point; we had started the second half of the in-service early and we had around 60 teachers upstairs awaiting this live stream.
Needless to say, we did not stream anything, however at it was now that I became quite calm. The realization that our computers could probably handle streaming, and it was more than likely the new filter we are using at school was the problem balanced the ship. We can figure out filter settings, but buying new computers is not an option.
I still do not like the filter at school, it is a very adversarial relationship. Often I can do something with my one of my classes out on the Internet, then later the filter deems that action unacceptable and blocks me. In my mind it is like HAL from “2001;A Space Odyssey” a calm voice comes over the computer, “I’m sorry Dom, but I feel that action is unnecessary. Do not try again, just accept that I do not allow you to access the Internet, go back to textbooks…” Then I mumble some school appropriate words to show my contempt for the new system and move on to plan “B”…again.
Overall, I know the filter will eventually be tamed by our fantastic tech staff, it is just brand new and we are not used to it yet. Our computers, though antiquated, but updated, can handle some of what we do until our CFF laptops come in. Most importantly, I have learned that I hold myself to a higher level of expectation when it comes to technology this year. Instead of shrugging off an issue as “oh well,” I believe I can fix it and move on with out veering too far off of my goal. So what at first was disheartening and frustrating turned into a realization that I am not too far behind the times, which is a good thing for the kids I teach and my daughter here at home.