Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Meerkat & Periscope VERSUS "The Mom"

In a matter of two weeks from hearing about the live video streaming apps called Periscope and Meerkat, they have become part of my life. It was a gentle reminder of 2004 when Facebook hit the college scene and I chose to "check it out as an instructional technologist." Oy!

In what felt like a matter of days, educators seemed to "choose" Periscope for their live streaming app and experiments began. I was on vacation at the beach and decided to try it out for the first time, the room was dark because it was late at night and I labeled a public video "sleep." I was dumbfounded when immediately 3 people were viewing my dark room. So dumbfounded that I felt like my fingers were screaming "abort mission!" faster than I could close the app.

So then I started watching, lurking, seeing what my PLN was doing with Periscope. I started asking my teenage daughter if she had heard of it. She hadn't. I "went" on vacation with a few Twitter friends via Periscope. I saw some twin babies taking walks in the park on a regular basis. I got a blue bazillion notifications that "Mashable was live in New York," and I read and replied to some posts from other hesitant educators about Periscope.

I wasn't the only one reading those hesitant posts because Periscope jumped into the discussions too. They promised upgrades, changes, and to listen to what educators wanted. Every time I opened the app, I saw improvements but I also saw how it was catching on like WILDFIRE. I then used it at school to share our second graders singing in chapel. I've got to admit, it's an excellent way to let working parents be a part of their child's special events during the school day.

I then met a couple of other edtech friends at Chili's one night because my friend, @teachintechgal was moderating #BYOTchat and she wanted to do a Periscope discussion at the same time about the topic. I have to admit, it was exhilarating to have an audience and share more than just 140 characters regarding educational technology- even if comments were made about my southern accent! In that #BYOTchat live Periscope streaming, I immediately saw where one of my main complaints had been addressed. Comments didn't just stay lingering on the stream so that if some terrible digital citizen made an inappropriate comment we were all subject to it for the length of the broadcast. This was huge to me. I've never seen an app adjust so quickly to a community of concerns!

That being said, I'm scared. While comments aren't truly "anonymous" it's fairly easy to say whatever you want and ask whatever you want, without easily being traced. Like other anonymous apps (ask fm, whisper, yik yak, meerkat), there is a creepiness associated with it that teens just don't get. Just two days ago my high school daughter said "Hey mom, one of my friends posted that they were on Periscope." It's beginning...it hadn't trickled down into my community's world, but it's coming and it's coming fast. Last Sunday, after not being on Periscope for a week, I jumped on to play with it again and video my puppy. When I first started using Periscope, I would have 3-4 followers...Sunday I had 35 in a matter of 3 minutes. As the comments popped up, one nagging comment asked was "where I lived?" (LIGHTBULB MOMENT). At the end, I went back to look to see who was watching- I recognized ONE name. That's all. I teach and preach digital citizenship and not sharing too much about yourself to my children and students but I'm afraid Periscope is going to cause our students to cross a line with ease. A persuasively written description of your streaming "event" can bring in tons of viewers immediately. Viewers you know nothing about. Viewers that for whatever reason, want to view you. The creepy ramifications of that are humongous!

Do I see positive educational uses for Periscope and Meerkat? Definitely- School events (including sports and arts), public meetings, privately using them to connect with other schools, and the list goes on. I also fear the negative possibilities that this app might cause. We need to be warning and advising our students now in order for them and their parents to decide what this looks like in their lives.

As a mom, I worry. What IF it's a stalker out there discerning more about my child than just what her new Van sneakers look like? This is different from other social media apps, it's LIVE- meaning "at that moment," meaning "hey are you in my vicinity?," meaning potential 'DANGER WILL ROBINSON!' As a mom I see how I can follow my child and get notifications every time she publicly broadcasts. That's probably a really important choice for parents but it's also going to be very important to have that conversation again about what you should and shouldn't share, period.