Who remembers pen pals? For those that don’t or those who’ve never heard of it here’s a quick synopsis of a pen pal from my school experiences. I distinctly remember having two sets of pen pals. My first pen pal was another student at a school across town from the school I was attending in Fort Riley, KS. During my second grad school year, our teachers tasked us with writing a letter to some kid at another school that we would one day meet. I don’t remember how I felt about it then, but as I think about it now, it was a cool concept. I was able to talk to some kid I never met before and realized we had several things in common like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a like for Math, and similar 7-year-old issues on the playground at school. I remember liking the kid in the letters I read and being excited about meeting him when we took the field trip to their school. When I met him, he looked nothing like I thought he would be we were instant friends. We hung out in class and got to talk in person and had lunch together. We kept in touch during the remainder of the year, but I lost touch with him because I moved to a different state. This was the life of an Army brat.
My next pen pal was the following year and this one was a lot different. This was during the first Gulf War and we would pen pal with soldiers fighting in the war. I remember this one distinctly because my mother was stationed in Korea at the time and I remember worrying about her because of the letters I would get. It was a big deal to send our letters to the soldiers. They would take weeks to months to arrive to them and then weeks to months before we got them back. I remember it seemed like it was a six-month process to communicate. I remember writing my mother after writing the solider and always asking my teacher, Mrs. Shellman to mail off to her with the other letters. The letters I would get from my pen pal soldier were good. I remember him seeming sad as he talked about being over there in the war and me being one of the few people that sent him letters back in the U.S. So, he was always happy to get my letters so that made me happy and want to write him more. Unlike my second-grade pen pal, I was unable to see my third-grade pen pal and that’s where I think a tool like periscope can be great for education.
Periscope is essentially a live streaming app that allows a user to stream to the entire world. Any user from anywhere in the world can access streams to view what others are showing. It is powered by Twitter and users have the capabilities to comment and like on streams they are watching. This provides a great collaborative space for instantaneous feedback and dialogue between the periscope live streamer and viewing users.
As a student writing pen pal letters, it would have been great to see the surroundings of my pen pals, experience part of their day like lunch or work, and just see their face and talk to them, like I eventually got to do with my first pen pal. Periscope provides an outstanding platform to make that happen. In addition, it is a great tool to explore the world in real time through the lives of real people. Sometimes the media representation of people or places can be terrifying, and we pass judgement on people and places because of fearful stories told to us. Periscope has done an amazing job showing me the world of others and the world I haven’t visited in the safe comfort of my home or where ever, I choose to Periscope using my mobile device.
Another cool thing about Periscope is it’s a great tool to lurk. If you’re a little social media shy and want to watch someone’s streaming feed, you can do so without having to two-way-stream like a Skype or FaceTime. Some people choose to just watch feeds of people in distant lands. Imagine having the capability of setting up a virtual field trip to Rome, Italy for your class using a friend willing to Periscope the adventure for you. Students can ask questions of the tour guide, have them show the class particular artifacts in an area, or converse with locals in another land. With that in mind, streams can be recorded and saved to view at another time.
Lastly, Periscope is a great tool to broadcast classroom instruction and activities to parents and other community members. If you’re interested in sharing an engaging lesson or welcoming visitors into your class virtually Periscope is a wonderful way to do so. What are some ways you could use Periscope?