Livestreaming an event from school…

Make sure to read the comment from Pádraig Ó Dubhaigh on this posting below – the next level!

I live-streamed our Friendship-week concert from Portmarnock Community School last Friday.

This was the first time I tried something like this and I figured it out, over about an hour and a half, the night before.

I searched online using the terms like “live streaming from an iPhone 4s”.

The  smartphone and a streaming application  were my essential pieces of technology for this event.

I learned I had two streaming channel options that appeared to be “free” – Livestream and Ustream – I started with the former but quickly decided to use the latter, since Ustream seamlessly offered the embed code that I could place on the school-website (WordPress).

So I registered online with Ustream, created a channel called Portmarnock Community School, embedded it in the school website as below and then moved over to the iPhone.

I downloaded the Ustream App (free on the iTunes store), logged in with my new username and password and discovered I could literally photogo live” with a couple of clicks. So a few tests at home: Kids upstairs looking at my testing, testing one, two, three routine from my office and we were nearly set to go. (Incidentally, a teacher from the school also saw me doing the testing routine! Live means LIVE).

I also paid at this stage, an in-app €3.99 to get an advert-free site for a month (via the iTunes Store). I also put a disclaimer on the school website that there may be adverts and that we had no control over them.

I got my camera-tripod out the next morning and modified it with a extension lead so that I could keep the iPhone plugged in and a big lump of Blu-Tack to sit the iPhone on. I know there are devices for this, but educators will realise that we teachers often work in Donald Schon’s “swampy-lowlands” of practice (but at least in this case, we had problems capable of technical solution!)

006We successfully broadcasted with about eighty unique viewers, including one phone-call to the school switchboard asking could we re-arrange the camera for the pieces played on the schools grand-piano (we obliged).

It wasn’t pretty at times but it worked.


We learned

  • that there was about a thirty-second delay on the stream
  • that the closer we got the iPhone to the students, the better the image
  • that the sound was surprisingly good off the iPhone
  • to turn off alarms etc. set on the phone – they confused everyone!
  • that we streamed better off my 3G account rather than the schools’ WiFi (I am trying to get a costing for my 3G usage)
  • that Ustream had no time limits (I was sure they would had have, given its “free”). I reckon we livestreamed for about three hours
  • we need to learn better camera-control and have someone ready to do some face-to-camera sessions, for the invariable delays between acts.

The only issue I had with Ustream  on the day, is that the adverts did not disappear. They came in two varieties

  • a film trailer  (content appropriate )
  • a pop-up chat with some Russian ladies, easily clicked out of (but we are a school…)

The latter may disappear since I have subsequently updated my profile on the Ustream site as an education user.

There is another area of potential difficulty in that the content is public and Ustream have a social-media platform that allows comments etc.

There is nothing wrong with this in itself other than the moderation requires. I have had no issues with this but it is something you need to be aware of. Like everything (i.e. with time, I am sure you can lock these down, as on YouTube).

I used an iPhone, but you can also use an android device or laptop/indeed desktop with a camera. I must admit I was impressed with the stability of the iPhone and the Ustream app.

I am not sure about the implications for teaching and learning but streaming certainly gives teachers and students an audience. You will need to advertise your event – parents will like watching their children online in a concert, but the application can also be used for other events.

It could also be a useful project for a small group of students to train as videographers and let them loose with the technology!


Schon, D.A. “Knowing in action: The new scholarship requires a new epistemology,” 1995, Change, November/December, 2734.

Photos: Donal O’ Mahony


  1. Donal O' Mahony

    Pádraig Ó Dubhaigh posted this on the CESI list – it shows where streaming is going…Thanks Pádraig (used with permission)

    Thanks for sharing this Donal – will be very useful to anyone trying to do the same.

    Streaming really has come on a long way in the past few years – in fact anyone with a smartphone in their hand can stream for free provided they have decent 3G / H / 4G coverage. Now this is where the problems begin….! In my experience with streaming, nearly all problems relate to slow bandwidth, particularly upload speed.

    For a more complex setup, Ustream have a Desktop App called Ustream Producer and Livestream have Livestream Procaster The main advantages of these over handheld devices are the ability to use a video camera (zoom etc), to mix a number of sources/cameras, and to overlay graphics or text on top of the video.
    To get back to upload speed, the most current version of Ustream Producer offers 4 quality settings, from Low to HD. In rural Ireland we’ll dream on about HD….. but even the low quality setting requires a constant minimum upload speed of 464kbps – fall below this at all and the broadcast stops 🙁

    Another new player in this field is Google, with Hangouts on Air , essentially offering a live stream via YouTube. It has the advantage of a variable quality setting to accommodate upload problems, but as you mentioned in the article, Ustream gives an embed code which is ideal for school website – Hangouts on Air do not give this possibility, as far as I know.

    Hopefully with the imminent arrival of 4G, streaming may become a real possibility for schools wishing to offer broader access to school productions / ceremonies etc

  2. Mags Amond

    This article is a great keeper Donal – I predict a rise in the sales of blue tack! Does anyone know if UStream works well with Android app? Thanks, Mags

  3. Donal O' Mahony

    Hi Darryn and Simon – thanks for your comments.

    Darryn, generally speaking I assume a fair use approach to what I do.

    So for example in school when we perform a musical we pay the appropriate licence fee. I would never think of streaming that…

    For a once-off concert / Carol service / Variety Show I would be less concerned though I do take your point if an audience were to grow I do think owners would get interested.

    As the other poster, Simon, knows Portmarnock experiments with these technologies and then learns from the experience….

  4. Darryn

    I have been thinking about streaming school events for a while now, but I’ve been put off by performance rights implications. Were there any issues with performance rights rights in this instance? The difference between performing to a small audience in the room and a small online audience is minimal in some respects, but given the potential for the online audience to quickly grow I just wonder how big an online audience needs to be before owners of work become interested in how their work is being presented.