http://mv-voice.com/print/story/print/2013/02/15/live-stream-plan-for-school-board-meetings


Mountain View Voice

News - February 15, 2013

Live stream plan for school board meetings

by Nick Veronin

Intent on bringing greater visibility to the Mountain View Whisman School District, recently elected trustee Christopher Chiang is pushing to get all public district meetings streamed live online — an idea generally liked by the rest of his colleagues.

At the Feb. 7 MVWSD board meeting, Chiang kicked off a formal discussion on the idea, proposing that the district could use free online tools to simultaneously stream and record board meetings, which could be viewed live and archived on the web. Several trustees said they were interested in making meetings available online, but cautioned that they wouldn't want to rush the process and risk a sub-par stream.

"It would be very easy to do a very amateur job that no one would want to watch," Trustee Steve Nelson said. Having voiced these words of caution, Nelson continued by saying he was in support of the idea.

He said he would like to see the board allocate sufficient funds to the project to ensure that it is done right. Trustee William Lambert seconded Nelson on this score.

Chiang kicked off the discussion by proposing that the district use "Hangouts" — a free Google+ feature, which facilitates multi-person video chatting — to stream (or broadcast) district board meetings live online. A new Hangouts feature, which allows users to simultaneously record and then log their video chats on YouTube, would make it very simple for the district to make its meetings available both in real time and on demand, he said.

"I think there are a lot of people who would be interested in learning about the school process who can't physically attend the school meetings," Chiang told the Voice.

Shelley Wolfe, executive director of Mountain View's community television station, KMVT, is excited by the idea. "I think it's very important that our local government continue to show their transparency to the community that they serve," Wolfe told the Voice.

Speaking at the board meeting, Wolfe said she would like to help Chiang achieve his vision and then some. She said that the local channel could help the district assemble the needed equipment — microphones, cameras and other audio and video hardware — as well as pull in its Google+ Hangouts feed, enhance the quality of that feed and then broadcast that on KMVT. At its most basic, she said her proposal would cost the district about $5,500.

At two recent Parent-Teacher Association meetings on the upcoming Measure G projects — at Crittenden and Graham middle schools, respectively — officials from the board and the district office experimented with two methods of capturing video. At the Feb. 12 Graham meeting, Chiang used his laptop to simultaneously stream and record video with Google+ Hangouts. The same day, at Crittenden, district officials used a video camera to record the event and subsequently uploaded the video to YouTube.

Ideally, Chiang said, the district will be able to use the Google+ feature. Not only does he favor live streaming over recording and then uploading video; Hangouts has built-in social media applications, so the district would, in theory, be able to field live comments from virtual board meeting attendees.

"I do have a long-term view that more interactivity is the future for all districts," Chiang said. "Right now people think it's high tech if you have video online. But to be able to engage in real time — that would be amazing."

MVWSD Superintendent Craig Goldman said he sees "advantages and disadvantages" to video taping, streaming and broadcasting board meetings. The obvious upside, he said, would be reaching out to people who otherwise wouldn't engage.

On the other hand, he mused, the mere presence of cameras has the potential to change the way people act.

"Ultimately," he said, "my personal position is that it's the board's decision."

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