Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ustream for professors

Have you been to Ustream yet?

It might be the biggest thing for providing videos to your students since YouTube (or the education-oriented knock-off TeacherTube)--both of which I recently told you about.

Ustream  is a website where you can use your webcam to broadcast live from your computer.  For FREE!

Because Ustream allows unlimited internet broadcasts, you can broadcast to an unlimited number of students or colleagues.  Here are just a few ideas:
  • Broadcast your class to students who are ill, or are at a distant location.
  • Broadcast help sessions or tutorials to students.
  • Hold online orientations to your courses (especially useful for distance education courses).
  • Broadcast demonstrations that would be difficult in the classroom.
  • Visit remote locations to which you cannot bring the entire class (virtual field trips).
  • You know that already-answered question you still keep getting? Broadcast it and forget it!
  • Broadcast "preview" introductions to lectures or demos before class time, so students are better prepared.
  • Host live webinars with students or colleagues . . . anywhere in the world
  • On a field trip or research trip . . . or stuck in your lab?  Broadcast back to the classroom live from your location.  Bring your scholarly activity to the classroom, without having to take the whole class along.
  • At a conference?  An out-of-town funeral?  Hold class anyway by broadcasting from your location back to the classroom.
  • Hold a virtual meeting with colleagues on other campuses.
  • Your entire class can watch live or recorded broadcasts of current events such as political debates, rocket launches, disaster sites, sporting events, wildlife activity, etc.

Because you can record your live broadcasts on Ustream , or upload previously recorded video from YouTube or your computer, viewers can access your content asynchronously.  So you have to put your head into the lion's mouth only one time for that dramatic demonstration . . . and never again after that.

If  you teach at a school where cutting-edge teaching technology is frowned upon as too risky for the network, you'll be glad to hear that neither the sender nor the receiver of a Ustream broadcast has to have any special software installed.  Well, you do need a browser . . . but all you need is a browser. OK, a webcam helps if you are the one broadcasting.

However, you can opt to download a FREE desktop application called Ustream Producer, which helps you import movies, audio, screen captures, and more, into your broadcasts more easily.  They also have iPhone and Android apps you can use to broadcast from your smartphone.

Hmmm, wouldn't that be great when you have a chance to meet a hero in your discipline, such as a famous scientist or historian, to be able to broadcast a quick chat with them and share this with your students?

You can embed live or recorded broadcasts in your webpage or a PowerPoint slide, or simply link to them.

Check it out for yourself at

And here's an example of a live feed of a hummingbird nest.