Apps and their Potential, and Privacy Concerns, in Education

June 12, 2015 by Crescerance


As of writing this, of 49.4 million children enrolled in K-12 schools in the U.S. As of 2012, 75% of high school students and 60% of middle school students now own or have access to a smartphone or tablet. That is an increase of 400% since 2007. 30% of all student smartphones use them to take a class or get educational content. Those number will go nowhere but up. As of 2015, 62% of parents said they would buy their child a mobile device if it were to be used for academic purposes.

Mobile devices, and specifically smartphones, are in schools to stay. Mobile connectivity will continue to be a mainstay in the country’s K-12 student body. So, how can educators leverage these smartphones into providing new and interesting experiences for their students?

The potential for mobile applications in the classroom is enormous. Let’s look at Periscope first.

Periscope is a live video streaming app for iOS and Android developed by Kayvon Beykpour and Joe Bernstein. The startup behind the app was purchased by Twitter for a reported $100 million in March 2015.

The services of Periscope are available in the mobile application itself as well as on Twitter. When connected to Twitter, Periscope users can allow other users to see links tweeted to view the live-stream.

Users of Periscope can choose whether or not to make their video public or simply viewable to certain users such as their friends or families. Periscope allows viewers to send “hearts” to the broadcaster by tapping on the mobile screen as a form of appreciation. Under the People tab, there will be a Most Loved List that shows the users who have received the most hearts during the real-life broadcast

Potential Uses

Connecting students to other people and places across the world

For geography and history teachers, the ability to connect students across borders is hugely important, whether your class is discussing differences in culture or seeking out pen pals. Periscope knows no boundaries (and involves no cost)

Live tutoring or office hours

For after-school, Periscope could help you hold virtual office hours for students who have questions or need help. Teachers can use Periscope to hold help sessions that are more controlled than through other services, such as Google Hangouts. The teacher can make sure the students send in questions in text form, and the teacher remains the leader of the session, able to control it.

Potential Drawback

Periscope has great potential in the classroom, but as Jeff Bradbury, host of TeacherCast podcast, has posed the question: Is Periscope, or live streaming, in general, appropriate for the classroom?

The issues with applications like Periscope all stem from a lack of privacy. Comments and viewers cannot be removed from a Periscope stream, which opens up the private happenings of a classroom up to the world. Keep in mind, too, that any student under the age of 18 is still a minor and deservedly should be able to keep their identity private until that point.

There are no doubts that Periscope and its newer cousin Meerkat, have the potential to be great tools for schools, but we have to know how to keep student’s best interests in mind. For example, Sarah Thomas doesn’t film students’ faces. She either points the camera over their shoulders or doesn’t point it in their direction at all.

Periscope can be a powerful tool, being able to live chat with a NASA astronaut or a missionary in Africa could bring an all new perspective to a student that rarely hears, sees, or cares about anything outside of his or her immediate sphere. But with any new technology being used in the classroom, there should always come discussions of student privacy, and hopefully, Periscope will pass the test.