Monday, January 31, 2005

GPB Helps Make Streaming Work For You

Georgia Public Broadcasting Education's Video Streaming Portal has been an increasingly popular tool for classroom teachers since we introduced it in August of 2001. GPB Project Managers, trainers, and media specialists across the state have been showing teachers how to integrate our streaming resources into their classroom teaching ever since. Additionally, GPB provides tools to make implementing video streaming into schools and systems easier for network administrators, media specialists, and teachers.

Network Manager and Local Servers

Some school systems have reported issues regarding the access of video streaming content directly from the Georgia Public Broadcasting servers in Atlanta. These problems have been attributed either to the network's inability to accommodate the high level of data transfer or to the high cost of bandwidth.

In order to alleviate such impediments, GPB offers Network Manager, a software application that Georgia schools can use free of charge. The software is installed on a school or system server, and allows you to schedule select programs to be downloaded en masse at off-peak hours. Teachers can choose which programs or segments they'd like to download to the school server. Once the programs have been downloaded, they are available to stream or download directly from the school or system server, without having to use the system's wide network to access the GPB servers. By doing mass downloads at times, like nighttime, when fewer people are accessing the network, schools and school systems will be able to retrieve greater quantities of programming without the concern of slowing down the network for other users.

Schools or systems running Network Manager have a teacher interface nearly identical to the traditional GPB Education Streaming Portal. The only difference is the addition of a "Download Later" column; this icon allows teachers to choose a program or segment to download to the server during off-peak hours. Once Network Manager has downloaded the video, it is immediately available for teachers to stream or save to their computers directly from the school server. The video will remain on the school's server for a predetermined amount of time to be set by your server administrator, after which it will automatically be deleted. If you did not save the video to your computer or to a CD-ROM or flash drive before it was deleted from the school's server, you can always request Network Manager to download it again; there is no limit on the number of times programs can be downloaded using this feature.

Some schools or systems, whose large network makes localized video streaming a necessity, may choose to use Network Manager in combination with local servers. Dan Gillette, Coordinator of Communication Technology for Fulton County Schools, says, "It's a good solution for system [whose technology infrastructure] can't support the streaming." Fulton County has had to delay implementation of video streaming until this year because of the need to make sure its network could handle the volume of data that system-wide access would generate. Because the system has so many employees, it could not allow every Fulton teacher unrestricted access to video streaming using the system network. In order to work around this problem, the county has implemented Network Manager and installed a local server in almost all FCPS elementary schools, and about half of the middle schools. Rollout to the high schools is planned for this spring semester. By installing Network Manager on their schools' servers, Fulton County is avoiding the difficulties that can be caused by simultaneous utilization of video streaming by large numbers of users.

The local servers being utilized in Fulton County represent a further alternative for schools that are interested in hosting video streaming content locally. Rather than access the video streaming content housed at GPB's central server in Atlanta, school systems can have a dedicated server house the content within their system network. This allows teachers and students to stream or download content without having to access it over the Internet. The content is updated regularly from the content on our server, so teachers always have the latest videos to stream in the classroom. This is an excellent alternative for school systems which have a relatively small network, but are paying an internet service provider for access to the internet. The system need only provide the server on which to house the content.

Schools and school systems that are interested in setting up Network Manager or a local server should contact William Goh with Discovery Education at 1 (800) 323-9084.