Last spring, a bedridden parent wanted nothing more than to see her child receive his diploma.
Thanks to an incredibly affordable, powerful and intuitive live streaming program, this proud mother enjoyed the next best thing. From her hospital bed, she watched the ceremony live.
Truthfully, at that time I had not yet learned how to use the software. Instead, two of my journalism students took the initiative. I gave them my blessing and watched the magic unfold.
PlayOn! Sports launched in 2006 to live stream collegiate athletic events. Six years later, the company has formed partnerships with 26 state High School Athletic Associations, with more on the way.
With an incredibly easy interface, more and more high schools across the nation are using this amazing software to cover competitions, ceremonies, graduations, interviews and special events—and it couldn’t be easier. To get off and running, all you need is Internet access, a digital video camera, laptop, and video capture cord.
“When you look at what we are trying to do, ease of use for the end user was really job number one,” says PlayOn! School Broadcast Program Director Mark Rothberg, adding that his company remains just as committed to putting out a quality product.
“We had somebody whose mother was a flight attendent, and I think they were in Bangkok, and they got to watch their daughter place basketball live,” Rothberg says.
Rothberg “can’t get enough” of these success stories. More than anything, he says, they validate the company’s hard work and give purpose to its healthy existence.
I can’t give PlayOn! enough praise, all of which the company richly deserves. Their software is so simple, in fact, that even my newest and youngest journalism students don’t need my help to learn or run it.
“There are some schools that we send the software to and we don’t even train them because it’s so intuitive and so easy to use,” Rothberg says.
That’s not to say that PlayOn! doesn’t provide quality customer assistance. Rothberg has trained an impressive support network with representatives across the nation.
So far, Rothberg says his biggest challenge has been finding an adult point person at individual schools to oversee the program. Students should do virtually all of the groundwork, but an adult still needs to make sure that the equipment is cared for.
“If I’m putting a percentage on why school’s don’t do it, money is the smaller percentage—probably in the 20-30%,” Rothberg says. “And the 70-80% is that they don’t have the person to run it.”
I can’t believe that every high school in the country isn’t clambering to get onboard.
I don’t mean to place myself on a pedestal, but I teach four different courses: Honors American History, American Government, Yearbook and Journalism. I also serve as Head Boys Cross Country Coach and Assistant Track and Field Coach—and I have a successful social life.
Without any doubt, “running” PlayOn! is the easiest and most stress free part of my job.
Sure, not every school is ready to make this software fly. Its extremely affordable, but in these tight times I understand that some districts are strapped for cash. It’s also likely that some schools might lack established journalism programs or clubs.
But I can’t help but feel that a much larger reason for not joining involves a combination of misplaced fear, abject laziness and outright incompetence. Educators have a sacred obligation to take the time to learn, teach and utilize current and effective technologies, especially with respect to journalism.
Eventually, I want to grow the program to mimic The Westminster Schools in Buckhead, Atlanta, which travels with over two-dozen crewmembers to every sporting event.
I’m so excited to see the new advancements PlayOn! has planned for its fourth generation software. Right now, the company is working on an HDMI capture device to provide even higher quality video. But I’m most excited about making the feed available on iOS and Android devices.
“One of the really cool things we are looking to do now is the ability to cut real-time highlights,” Rothberg says. “While the game is going on, you are able to cut a highlight and share it.”
It comes as no surprise that my journalism enrollment has more than tripled since my school registered with PlayOn! last spring.
Visit playonsports.com to learn more about the software and how to register.