Posted by: Bill Lord | December 28, 2009

Using Twitcam in Literacy

I was one of the very lucky people who was able to view the talk on Twitcam by Javier Drill Bustamente (a real life Amazon tribesman from the Ashaninka Community in Peru) who was talking to the pupils at Saltash community college. This was advertised on twitter by Dan Roberts (@Chickensaltash) and it attracted a range of viewers including Primary aged school children who tweeted in questions which were asked at the end of Javier’s presentation.
The post about it on Dan’s excellent blog is a must read –  An Amazonian Tribesman comes to Cornwall? Really!

Twitcam is incredibly simple to use as the user only needs to connect their webcam, login to twitter and then broadcast. This makes it accessible to people who might not have confidence or technical know how to video conference.
The experience of watching the Saltash event taking place but being able to communicate through Twitter was something very different and quite exciting. It caused me to wonder whether it added anything that couldn’t be gained through the use of Skype or a flash  based meeting site. I know that Skype is blocked in most schools due to bandwidth issues and so Twitcam may have an immediate advantage by simply being accessible.

I tweeted with Dan soon after the event and my first thoughts were that twitcam could support small schools. In larger Local Authorities in England there are many small schools with less than 100 pupils, it strikes me that at a time when budgets are contracting it could be possible for them to work together to allow their children to access events which they couldn’t afford on their own. This could be authors, poets, people leading science or maths workshops, artists. Very often these sort of events are beyond the budget of smaller schools.

There is also the potential of broadcasting to the wider community – over christmas I was honoured to be invited by my good friends at @globalrams to watch the live stream of the ir christmas concert which was a real treat.  I am aware that many schools in England would not risk putting their children on to streaming video as a result of the present concerns about e-safety and safeguarding but it is worth considering whether their some potential of allowing parents who aren’t able to attend school events to watch online.

Thinking back to the Burglar Bill work I wonder whether some of the work which was sent out as video files setting up the project could have been done using Twitcam. In this case this was the Jolly Postman telling the children that his postal sack had been stolen. This gives us the opportunity of using twitcam to launch projects between schools. Obviously my initial thoughts fall to literacy activities but I am aware that others might think more of other curriculum areas.

My thoughts in this area are:

  • a joint reading activity set by an adviser or teacher from a lead school – this could be a primary aged book club or something to support reluctant readers introducing new books
  • a launch for a joint project like the Burglar Bill work in Rotherham or the Pass a Poem project previously discussed
  • live streaming of an event such as an author or poet visit,  artist or musician
  • live streaming of a school event or performance (schools will need to be very secure of the safeguarding issues of this)

Again I would welcome comments or suggestions from readers.


  1. Outstanding post again Bill, would love to use this in class but fear it will be blocked along with all things Twitter 😦

    Shame you can’t put a password on the video being broadcast and then it would have a wider application.

  2. Thanks Pete. I think that the major issue is that the video is archived as i suspect that this will fall foul of the safeguarding agenda at the moment.
    There are, however, many uses which could be made without children appearing on them. Dan’s interview with Javier was cleverly filmed so you could hear the pupils but not see them. I am convinced that it has a major role to play in connecting smaller schools allowing them to group together to buy in an expert. We know that the cost of transport is so prohibitive that even bussing them to one central location prevents such events from taking place.

  3. Great ideas – twitter blocked in our LA and I share the concerns of those who would be flagging up the e-safety concerns. I watched Dan’s twitcam too – it was really interesting and I’m hoping to use the clip when we do rainforests in the summer term. I take your point about careful filming so children can be heard but not seen (what would the Victorians have made of it!) but skype can be used to provide the real time links but control who is joining in – can have a multi- way conversation, I understand, though we have only used 2 way.

    • There are significant problems around the use of Skype in schools due to Bandwidth issues when it is being used but I am huge fan of it. Moving from more than two users does mean that you lose the video element. There must be other solutions but Twitcam is worth exploring.

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