Let’s Meet Up: Video Conferencing in Schools

Whether it’s streaming an event, a PD between sites, an administrator conference, or a digital parents’ meeting, you may need to stream live video. There are a lot of options available with different limitations, pricing, and features so I will attempt to review a few of my favorites for you. Of course, for all of these, you’ll be limited by your school’s bandwidth and site restrictions, but there are enough options here that one should work for your needs.

SKYPE

skype in the classroomI will say that for class-to-class connections Skype has the most opportunities and resources available.  In addition to training resources, Skype offers a global community of educators to connect and collaborate on learning projects. Microsoft provides a platform to connect based on interest, specialty, project, or location. You can also utilize Skype for Business which expands the meeting and video control options.

WAYS TO CONNECT

  • Virtual Field Trips – Students can visit national parks, historical sites, or stroll with penguins.
  • Collaborate – Connect with other classes for a cultural exchange, a read-aloud, joint writing projects, or holiday celebration
  • Skype Lessons – Take on live learning activities given by experts around a specific theme like hurricane safety, being safe online,
  • Guest Speakers – Become a guest speaker or speak with other experts in literature, science, and education.
  • Mystery Skype – This is a guessing game where students will be learning about cultures and lands far across the globe. It’s a fun way to expand your student’s horizons.
  • Skype-a-Thon – This year on November 28th and 29th Skype will be holding it’s annual Skype-a-Thon. This is a global learning event that allows teachers to connect with other classes and virtually travel all over the globe. Check the quick-start guide for more information.

ZOOM

zoom.pngZoom is one of my favorite’s for group video chats. It is the platform my district has chosen to stream events like our STEM Fair and communicate around the city. Like many others I’ll mention, it works with multiple web and mobile platforms. Their free model allows up to 100 participants, unlimited 1 to 1 meetings, HD video & voice, multiple views, telephone call-in, local recording, host and participant controls, screen sharing, computer control, white-boarding, and breakout rooms. Group meetings are limited to 40 minutes though. For more, you’ll pay a monthly fee.

CLICK MEETING

ClickMeeting is both user-friendly and versatile with several plans at reasonable prices. They also provide a statistical overview of all your meetings. The only downside is the lack of phone support, but you can try it free.

JOIN ME

Join.Me has one of the most generous free plans and displays up to 10 streams at once. It has a slick modern interface with plenty of helpful features including its compatibility with Slack, HipChat, and Trello. It also doesn’t require any plug-ins to run.

MY LIVE DISTRICT

MyLiveDistrict is a streaming service marketed and created specifically for schools. They will customize a live streaming webpage for your school, provide video archiving, offer discounted recording equipment, and have 24/7 support. Those features come at a higher price though

GO TO MEETING

Citrix’s GoToMeeting is the service most people know and remains one of the easiest to use. It’s now HD video conferencing and updated features keep it relevant. It does have a free trial to test it out.

OTHER NOTABLE SERVICES 

For small-scale personal streaming, there are other limited options available like Apple’s FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Facebook Live, Voxer, the new Amazon Chime, and Periscope. the DOE-provided Skype for Business. Lisa Nielsen has a wonderful guide for using these streaming services for learning.

Slack.pngSpeaking of communication and collaboration, Slack is an app used by teams here in New York City and around the world for business sharing and discussions. It offers a lot of possibilities, but I tend to check it less regularly than I do other platforms. The free version offers searchable message archives, built-in channels, direct messages, voice and video calling, and file sharing with 5GB of storage. It also allows for screen sharing and group calls in their subscription plans. There are native apps for iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows.

2 thoughts on “Let’s Meet Up: Video Conferencing in Schools

    1. Zoom is very intuitive. From adding/contacting users/joining a session/screen sharing/muting…it was how the D75 STEM fair & Lego League. The free plan has a 40 minute limit for streaming amongst more than 2 people.

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