CER Chick Cam – the technology aspects

CER Chick Cam – the technology aspects

ImageMeet Red, one of 16 chickens that hatched in my library this week. I’ve toyed with the idea of hatching chicks in the library for several years. I always envied the select classrooms that had this experience; it’s wonderful for the children in that class, but what about the rest of the kids in school? And it always seems like it’s limited to the youngest children. If I hatched eggs in the library, all of the children in the building could share the experience. I’ve tossed the idea out in casual conversation a few times over the years and this year, it paid off! My principal, a science teacher in her former life, bought me an incubator. (Be very careful what you wish for! Ha! Ha!)

My father raised chickens when I was a kid.  Every spring he brought home a few dozen chicks that we kept under a heat lamp in the basement until they were old enough to go to the farm, so I knew a little but about what to expect after they hatched.  But there was so much I didn’t know!  Luckily for me there is a chicken farmer in my building and she kindly provided the eggs, expertise, and most importantly, a good home for the chicks after they hatched.

My objective was always to share the eggs, the hatching, and the chicks, with all of the kids in my building, but once it was all set up, I realized how difficult it would be to actually have hundreds of children jockeying for a look at the incubator, to say nothing of the commotion after the chicks hatched.  How to realistically share the experience within the constraints of my available time and space? I decided to investigate webcam technology. 

I was familiar with Ustream, but it’s blocked at school. A friend of mine suggested Livestream and I found it to be incredibly user friendly. There is a free version that is available as an iPad app and it had all the features that I needed to stream the chicks. The paid version would have allowed me to keep an archive of the event and viewers could have watched without setting up their own Livestream accounts, but I didn’t feel these benefits were worth the $49.00 price. I had some trouble with the initial account setup, but I took advantage of the online chat help and the very friendly person on the other end helped me troubleshoot my issue. There are two apps with the name Livestream and I had downloaded the wrong one. Including the help session it took me under an hour to get the webcam up and running.  Seriously, setting up the webcam on my iPad was the easiest part of the entire experience.

My next challenges were how to place the iPad in a way the provided the best view, and how to Imagelight the incubator over the weekend when the library lights were off.  I don’t have a tripod for my iPad (Do they even make them?) so I started looking around for a solution.  There’s a old plastic milk crate in my storage room that I’ve often wished would disappear, but now I’m glad it was there. The milk crate was just the right height to give a full view of all of the eggs and I used a clip on lamp attached to a display sign to light up the incubator.

Now all that was left to do was wait. The chicks began hatching on Sunday, 3/16, a day early. I shared the webcam link as well as updates on the school Facebook page and had many rapt viewers.  Several teachers in my building kept the webcam playing in their classrooms on Monday and Tuesday and I am thrilled to report that at least 100 children in my building were able to witness the miracle of birth via the webcam.  From the chat feature, I know I had a high school student who watched the camera almost nonstop Sunday-Tuesday.  I also received the following email from a high school librarian friend in a neighboring district.

I just watched a chick hatch!!!  Soo cool!! I hope it’s okay, but I have a large monitor in the library that I use for displays (usually PowerPoint), but decided to stream your chick broadcast right now. I think my students will enjoy watching it.  

The feedback has been 100% positive. Some email from parents:

We are having so much fun watching the Riley chicks!!  What a great idea for the the kids!
I love it!  Thank you so much!  It’s been wonderful!
Feedback from children:

I can’t recommend Livestream enough if you are looking for a way to share a live event with a wide audience. For less than one hour or effort (probably less than 30 minutes) everyone in my building and many people beyond were able to share this experience.






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