Be in the Classroom While You’re Home Sick

I’ve been out most of this week with what I’ve learned today to be a sinus infection. Yes, I know, I’m a whimp, but when I interact with over 800 students each week, I don’t like to take risks spreading illness around the school. Regardless, I was frustrated that I couldn’t be in the classroom, as the fifth graders have been working hard on the Kidpedia project. I’ve also been missing out on getting my fourth graders started on recording their podcasts, but thankfully I’ve found a way to put myself (or rather, my online video self) into the classroom so that I can still offer my students some direction while I’m home with the chills and a fever. Below is the awesomely easy web video I created using

Yes, I know, it was awful of me to pick up my camera like that and hold it in front of my blurry monitor and expect the kids to appreciate it. And I know I stumbled a bit in my delivery (I’m much better “live”, or so I’ve been told), but in the space of 10 minutes I was able to plug in my digital video camera, record my short “intro” for the day, and then have it automatically saved as a flash movie and embedded on the website I use to teach with. Talk about incredible!

I had originally heard about uStream back in October from Jim Wenzloff, but forgot about it, until John Nugent mentioned it on MACUL Space last week. It was quite the fortuitous occurrence, as I’ve been able to quickly, and easily, record different videos every morning for each day I’ve been out this week. The amount of technical “know-how” was minimal, as the site lead me through the entire process. It was so easy (and I’m going to sound like a cheesy infommercial here) that I literally signed up for an account, recorded a video, and had it posted in less than 20 minutes. And that was with no previous experience. A nice little broadcast window popped up after I had signed in and clicked on a “Broadcast” button. It then allowed me to connect to my digital video camera via a USB cable, and saved my video as a flash movie AS I was recording, which means once I hit stop, I could embed the video right away. That’s a HUGE difference from YouTube, TeacherTube, and other video sites that have to compress and convert your uploaded videos.

Oh, did I mention that it’s FREE? I know there are lots of other applications for this service; student broadcasts each morning, video journaling, performing arts, etc. But for now, I’m content knowing that if I’m not going to be in school on a particular day, I can quickly sit down at my computer, and record a message that will help give the substitute teacher a helping hand in setting up the lesson and explaining some more of the technical aspects of what I teach. That, or give the students a serious complex about being “watched” while I’m at home sick. Either way, it’s a win for me 🙂


  1. Ben,
    I have used UStream several times for different occasions. The best use so far was when I was hospitalized last October for 1 week. I UStreamed as you did for my students and then posted it on my website. I was able to still walk them through the newly assigned book report, ask questions for Lit circle groups, and let the kids know I was thinking about them and also let them know how much I enjoyed their “Get well cards”. It was a great opportunity and I still have kids and parents ask if I’ll be doing that again. Glad you found use for it as well. I plan on using it while I am presenting our class project at MACUL next week.

  2. Must be nice to work for a district that allows you to teach in the 21st century. My district blocks ustream, and about everything else useful. I did finally convince them that might be ok.

  3. Although I love my job and hate to not be in the classroom when you are sick, you are sick, and you should take a break. Sometimes I think technology allows us to stay too connected. And didn’t I read a few posts ago about this guy who was using a timer in school to make every second count…..

    Stay home, eat some chicken soup, and get better.


  4. A good friend of mine has run a FirstClass server for years. Some time back when he was “weathered out” and couldn’t get to school (even though schools were open that day), he logged on via FC and ran chat while the students went ahead with their Physics lab. The sub kept order, but couldn’t have helped academically, but Bill was able to respond to their questions in real time and complete the lab.

    I would also argue that this is good prep for kids for the real world, as it will be rare that the expert is in the room with you, but can be connected in some way.

    I also feel lucky to work in a district that, while it does block certain things, seems to try to understand what should be open, and is responsive when requests are made. Do you see your teachers as practitioners or clerks?, I would ask.

  5. Great post Ben! That is an excellent use for ustream.

    Gary, it so unfortunate to me that educators are not given the ability to use these awesome tools that are out there on the web.

  6. Jim: Sometimes, there’s just something that can’t be conveyed in lesson plans for the substitute, and when most of my substitute teachers are twice my age (not implying anything, but it’s usually the case), they are often apprehensive when it comes to following my lesson plans.

    Gary: I feel for you man, I really do 🙁

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