Saturday, August 2, 2003


For almost ten years now, PeachStar has provided Georgia educators and learners with the highest quality educational programming and professional development available. Originally reliant upon satellite delivery exclusively, PeachStar has consistently taken advantage of emerging technologies, allowing us to expand our delivery to include satellite, video, open-air television, CD-ROM, and the Internet.

In August 2001, PeachStar began offering K-12 educational programming via the Internet through our video streaming service in order to allow users across Georgia to access our programming anytime anywhere. Since its inception, utilization of video streaming has continued to increase steadily, indicating that you are ready and able to take advantage of content in a digital format.

The growing demand from educators statewide for professional development opportunities, combined with limited funding, has caused PeachStar to reconceptualize the way we offer not only our programming, but our training as well. The success of web-based resources like video streaming on the K-12 level led us to a search for other kinds of web-related resources that would allow us to train an increasing number of educators across the state in a way that would be both efficient and comfortable for our users. Our search led us to Webcasting, a progressively popular new technology that allows us to bring our traditional face-to-face training module up to speed with today's technological pace.

The idea of Webcasting is as easy to understand as taking apart its name. The 'web' part of the word means that the event takes place online. The 'casting' part refers to broadcasting. So Webcasting is simply broadcasting online. PeachStar has purchased special software that will allow us to bring live, interactive webcasts, as well as archived presentations that can be accessed on demand, to educators across Georgia. This may sound at first like we are just extending the use of video streaming to professional development video resources, but nothing could be further from the truth! The capabilities of Webcasting go far beyond simply streaming video.

In February of this year PeachStar held a pilot webcast screening with a number of select media specialists across the state. The purpose of the webcast was to introduce Webcasting to Georgia media specialists and to determine whether you felt the technology would meet your professional development needs. This original webcast presented a number of components that can be used for any scheduled webcast training, including:

* Live streamed video of the trainer presenting the information
* Synchronized PowerPoint slide presentations that accompany the video stream of the trainer
* Polls and surveys that participants can answer and see results from in real time
* A section where the presenter may post related documents for supplemental use by participants
* A question and answer feature that allows participants to dialogue with the trainer in real time

Feedback provided by pilot participants about their Webcasting experience was overwhelmingly positive. Media Specialists indicated that they would embrace Webcasting technology as a training medium and cited such benefits as its convenience and maximization of their time.

Not only does this technology allow educators to participate in live trainings via the Internet, but it also enables PeachStar to provide you with complete professional development modules on demand. PeachStar's Webcasting software automatically records live presentations as they are ongoing, allowing for the later editing and archiving of the module online for viewing at a later time. As PeachStar staff continue conducting live trainings using Webcasting technology, we will create a growing online repository of complete training modules available for use at any time convenient to you.

Your computer should meet the following specifications to most effectively use Webcasting technology:

* Has an Intel Pentium 4 processor-based system
* Has at least 256 MB of RAM
* Has Microsoft Internet Explorer version 5.5 or later
* Has Windows Media Player version 7.1 or RealOne Player installed

The faster your Internet connection, the better the quality of the webcast will be. If you will be viewing the professional development modules on your school computer, you will probably have a T-1 connection, which will provide for a smooth transmission of data. If you are using your computer at home, it is preferable to use a DSL or cable line, but you may also use a standard analog connection, though the quality of the webcast will be diminished.

Now that you know what Webcasting is and what equipment and software you need to utilize it, let's talk about how to register to participate in one of PeachStar's live online professional development trainings. Once a webcast is scheduled, you may visit the PeachStar website at and click on the Professional Development Webcasting icon. Select and click on the training of your choice to go directly to an online registration page. After you have completed the registration form, you are all set. PeachStar's Webcasting software will automatically send you a reminder notice shortly before the scheduled date of your selected training.

PeachStar's first ten live webcasts will be conducted as part of the Institute for New Media Specialists, which began with regional trainings in late June. The ten online modules will be presented live to the cohort of educators taking part in the Institute between August and March, and will later be edited and archived for viewing by any educator.

Continue to look at the PeachStar website throughout the coming school year to find additional professional development webcasts as well as face-to-face trainings as they are scheduled.