The citizens of South Carolina really have some wonderful online resources available to them. For ten years now the State Library has made available a wealth of research and reference materials through the DISCUS project. This is available in all schools, libraries, and colleges, and available at home if you obtain a free password from one of those sources. Then there’s KnowItAll.org and all of the other amazing resources from SCETV. One of the best of these is the Discovery Education video clips available from StreamlineSC. Like DISCUS, this is available free to all schools in the state through a special licensing arrangement with Discovery. At the SCETV conference this week I learned about a new feature that Discovery is promoting called MediaShare. This new service looks really cool, and looks like it will be another great resource for teachers.
As the name suggests, MediaShare allows users to share files of various types – PowerPoint slide shows, Smart and Promethean files, podcasts, and video clips. The idea is that these types of files often take up more space on servers than some districts allow, so Discovery has created this place to host the files. MediaShare is monitored for appropriateness of content, and districts can also set approval levels for files uploaded by their users.
While all of this is good, the biggest revolution will be the ability to upload videos. MediaShare takes the videos and puts them in a Flash wrapper. This means that the videos can then be embedded in websites and shared in many different ways. It also eliminates one of the biggest problems with video sharing – the fact that many districts (including our own) block YouTube and other video sharing sites. It also creates the potential for lots of copyright violations. More on that in a bit.
Let’s say a teacher finds a video on YouTube that he/she wants to use in class, but YouTube is blocked in the district. Many videos can now be downloaded from YouTube. The teacher would download the video at home, then that video can then be re-uploaded to MediaShare, which shouldn’t be blocked, and it would then be available. Also, teachers can upload original videos taken in the classroom and share them on the site. Here’s an example from the Geocaching activity we did this past week, which I had embedded in the previous blog post…
While the content on the Discovery Education video servers is excellent, there have been some limitations on their use. These video clips could be streamed from the website as long as the user was logged in, or they could be downloaded for local applications. However, there was no embed code for the video clips to be shared on websites. There’s a good reason for this. The licensing agreement with Discovery only applies to users in South Carolina. Placing the videos on another website would allow users outside of the state to view the videos and would violate the licensing agreements.
Along with the creation of MediaShare, some new capabilities have been added to the Discovery streaming video site. There is now a “share” application which allows users to post links to the clips on social networking sites and to link to from blogs, etc. Understand that this is a link, only, and not an embed. When someone follows one of these links it will still request a username and password before opening the file.
Justin Karkow from the Discovery Educators Network shared that MediaShare can now be used for a work-around to requiring passwords for Streamline video clips. The teacher downloads a clip, then re-uploads it to MediaShare. From there you can embed it into just about any website (including Google Earth placemarks.)
I’m still a bit uncomfortable recommending this, because it does seem to me that it would violate the licensing. Fortunately, Discovery does have good approval and sharing processes for MediaShare, so I’m hoping that copyright and licensing doesn’t become an issue. Those concerns aside, this does look like a huge improvement over the old service, and I think that teachers will like it once they learn the new capabilities and get comfortable with the new user interface.