Game On!

GSLogo_whtbk00GrandStadium.TV Gives School Districts & Individual Schools - ESPN-like Capabilities

 When the subject is sports, the focus is often on "the big game." Interest builds. Broadcast equipment and personnel collects. Advertising is sold. Fan schedules are rearranged. Excitement grows. Finally comes the big day.

For schools and school districts today, any game can be the big game. And there's no need to depend on high-priced satellite trucks, deal with temperamental network talent, or survive one-chance-to-get-it-right production tension. With GrandStadium.TV (www.GrandStadium.TV), any school or school district can easily create, manage - and profit from - online broadcasts of its sporting events.

"GrandStadium.TV is a groundbreaking program that allows schools to do real-time webcasting of sporting events for their local communities," explains Thomas Lapping, founder and CEO of JDL Horizons, LLC (www.JDLHorizons.com), a Minnesota-based company that specializes in video streaming solutions and project-based learning curricula for K-12 educational institutions.

"But it also does something else that's tremendously important for schools in today's economic climate," he continues. "It provides a revenue-generating opportunity, and one that's not limited to just the day of the game itself."

Welcome to ‘Microcasting'

GrandStadium.TV is a full-featured curriculum and communications package that essentially allows any school to become an online television broadcast station. Using Flash-format video streaming, the simplest and most trouble-free technology available for users of virtually any computer operating system - Windows XP and Vista, Mac OSX, Unix, whatever - it makes live and pre-recorded programming available online through virtually all popular Web browsers, from Internet Explorer and Firefox to Safari.

Yet, due the elegant simplicity of the design, schools can produce broadcasts of their sporting events that range from basic to highly complex using nothing more than their own AV gear and students who find the projects personally challenging and educationally beneficial.

"With the basic student energy and enthusiasm that fuels popular social media such as YouTube and Facebook, a school can put its sporting events online using technology that's probably already resident in its multimedia department," notes Stu Swartz, CEO of Minnesota-based Stuart Consulting (www.SwartzPage.com), and GrandStadium.TV's chief operating officer.

As a working example, Swartz points to last year's Minnesota state football semifinals: 12 games (ranging from nine-man to classes for the state's largest schools) over two days, held in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. The state championship games were broadcast - also from the Metrodome - the conventional way, under a contract between the Minnesota State High School League and a local television station. But the semifinals the week before were streamed online as individual pay-per-views for the schools involved.

Even better, says Swartz, not only did those schools have a chance to showcase their student athletes to parents, families, friends, and just plain fans spread statewide and beyond, but the broadcasts served as a teachable moment: The five-camera production was directed and shot by students from a local high school.

"These are the kids who are generating maybe half of the video that's out there on the Internet today," he says, "including producing feature-length movies with cell phone cameras. They're technologically precocious, so nothing that came up at the Dome the week before Thanksgiving last year was beyond them. What we were able to do with GrandStadium.TV is tap that talent and energy to create programming that reflected positively on their schools, and helped those schools connect with their local communities."

Scaling Up

GrandStadium.TV is not a barebones video streaming solution designed essentially for student do-it-yourselfers, however. To the contrary, notes Gary Gannaway, president and CEO of WorldNow (www.WorldNow.com), a New York-based company that provides broadband video technology and advertising solutions for nearly 500 local broadcast media companies affiliated with everyone from CBS to Raycom, it's fully capable of supporting professional-level streaming and pay-per-view broadcasts.

"In Kansas, the states Football, Basketball and Wrestling championships were produced by students," he points out. "In New Hampshire, Comcast produced the state football finals. In both cases, GrandStadium.TV proved itself fully up to the technical needs of the broadcast." For WorldNow, that makes GrandStadium.TV a viable solution for the local broadcasters that turn to it for the comprehensive technology platforms and strategic advertising services that will allow them to expand to the online world.

Increasingly, Gannaway theorizes, Internet broadcasting will play a major role in bringing all manner of programming to "wired" households. "For school districts in particular, this creates a powerful new revenue opportunity," he contends. "As broadband connections reach more households, educational organizations with the ability to microcast everything from sports and fine arts events to commencements and assemblies can aspire to do what traditional broadcasters have always done: connect advertisers to qualified prospects."

The broadcast scale is smaller, but the audience scale is unimaginably larger, he continues. "You're literally talking about providing content to someone anywhere in the world, 24/7, with no added production costs or technical requirements."

Teaching As Well As Reaching

For JDL's Lapping, the key is the educational foundation on which GrandStadium.TV is built. "Because the design was made for educators," he explains, "our orientation is to provide a curriculum for real world project-based learning so schools can not only reach their various communities, but do so in a way that prepares their students to work in an increasingly wired world."

Typically, he explains, students working with GrandStadium.TV become involved in the simulated launch of KSPN (Knowledge Sports Production Network), a new Internet broadband television service. Through a series of multi-disciplinary learning activities, they are immersed in the actual business aspects of modern sports broadcasting as they work cooperatively to plan and produce Internet programming.

"KSPN bridges the gap between the classroom and real world," says Lapping. "Students assume the roles of researchers, analysts, writers, producers, editors, announcers, and more. Teachers can choose from eight focused, fully fleshed-out project-based learning activities, combining them in any way that meets their objectives."

The curriculum backbone of GrandStadium.TV is designed for both middle schools and high schools. Each activity addresses a specific learning objective aligned to national and state curriculum standards as well as the development of one or more desired character traits: citizenship, fairness, respect, leadership, sportsmanship, ethics, integrity, personal responsibility, and healthy living. Working in cooperative learning groups, students ask questions, conduct multi-faceted investigations, and complete activities that incorporate all levels of Bloom's taxonomy and emphasize higher-order thinking skills. The curriculum is also free to educator's and can be viewed and downloaded at: http://www.jdlhorizons.com/grandstadium/kspncurriculum.html

Control is another key attribute. GrandStadium.TV uses the same Flash technology as popular social media sites such as YouTube and Facebook, and can be accessed through the same web browsers. But, unlike those services, which Lapping likens to great big sandboxes - "anybody can come and play, but you might find some things in the sand you don't want your students to be spending learning time  with" - JDL's solution keeps the program originator firmly in control at every step of the process.

  • ¨ Individual programs not only can be made available to parents and families in the local community, but syndicated for broadcast to viewers anywhere a broadband connection exists, from the corner coffeeshop to a military parent stationed in some of the world's most remote locations.
  • ¨ There's no cost to a school that wants to use the solution for pay-per-view events (whether streamed lived or archived online for later viewing), and a significant portion of the revenue derived comes back to the school program originator.
  • ¨ In addition, schools receive 100% of the banner advertising they solicit for placement on the GrandStadium.TV website. 

    Far-Reaching Outcomes

The video streaming solution pays more than lip service to educational agendas, Lapping emphasizes. Students who participate in this form of project-based learning use real-world tools and technologies, from cameras and IP broadcast infrastructure to broadcast management and editing software. The programming they produce as a result not only provides entertainment to the viewing audience, but showcases their creativity, comprehension, and critical-thinking skills.

"Imagine being able to sit down with a potential employer," he offers, "or a college admissions officer, and say, ‘Here's a DVD of the state high school football tournament I helped produce as a student.' How powerful is that?"

A similar project-based learning orientation permeates JDL's other IP video solutions. For example, in an alliance with eSchool News, the independently rated top information resource for curriculum and technology (www.eschoolnews.tv ), the company's EduVision video solution can now be integrated into an association, district or school website.

In the recently introduced Student Video Network model, eSchool News editors select top news stories and supply the words: a two- or three-minute script per school day. Following a real-world broadcast media scenario, students produce field footage and, using an anchor desk format, read the accompanying script on camera. The best of this student-created content then becomes the eSchool News default video of the day, distributed to tens of thousands of K-12 decision-makers in the publication's online news feed.

Simple and Sustainable

Unlike more technically involved video solutions, GrandStadium.TV requires virtually no upfront investment in either technology or technical training. JDL Horizons provides complete portal management, hosting, and distribution. It also handles archiving and troubleshooting, and sets up pay-per-view and advertising features. 

"When you combine the technology with the capabilities of JDL, Swartz Media Consulting, and WorldNow, you have a tremendously versatile package ready to help schools, districts and thier state athletic associations use their sports activities for a wide range of learning outcomes," says Lapping.

"And when you add the potential to generate revenue and local commercial broadcasting support to the package," he adds, "you've got a real winner in the truest sense of the word."

Mike Matthews is a Minnesota-based freelance writer.