St. John's School, ranked #1 in Houston (#23 in the country) wanted to enable their teachers to easily find TV clips for their lessons. For this, they installed a SnapStream Edu system. Now teachers are able to record shows to a central DVR, pull up the recordings on their laptops from anywhere on campus and create clips as needed. Even other departments, such as the athletics department and the school’s marketing department are now using SnapStream regularly.
It’s not uncommon for educators to incorporate television clips into their lectures, but for teachers at St. John’s, a highly ranked K12 private school in Houston, ranked #1 in Houston and #23 in the country, the process was often inefficient and difficult to execute. “If you knew of the TV clip, you might be able to Google it or find it on YouTube,” said St. John’s CIO Jeff Ritter. “But even then, you’re at the mercy of ‘did you see it?’ and go from there. Before that, some teachers might have been recording on VHS. You also had teachers buying video sets from PBS. You were at the mercy of what you knew of and what you could get your hands on.”
As CIO, Ritter not only teaches several classes, including an intro to Java course and one on computer hardware networking, but he’s also responsible for the technology infrastructure and integration within the school. So when Rakesh Agrawal, SnapStream’s CEO and an alum of St. John’s, approached Ritter seven years ago about incorporating SnapStream into the school’s curriculum, Ritter was open to testing it out.
St. John’s installed a SnapStream server in 2011. The setup and training for the service were, according to Ritter, pretty much effortless. “SnapStream was completely self-explanatory,” he said. “We have some documentation that we created on the interface that we can hand out to teachers, and we can meet with them individually, but with my staff I just had them log in and play around with it. [SnapStream] is just so intuitive, you don’t need a lot of handholding. We have some teachers that after 30 minutes of being introduced to the tool they were like, ‘OK, I’ve got it.’”
To use SnapStream, a teacher will log in through their web browser and either choose a show to record from the built-in program guide or pick one that has already been recorded. They can then use it to search (using SnapStream’s closed caption based TV Search capability) and clip what they want to show in the classroom. Every teacher has a laptop, and a projector with an HDMI connection, so they simply connect the projector to the laptop and play the clips from the browser. Occasionally, a teacher will want their students to watch a clip outside of the classroom and will download the clip from SnapStream and upload the clip to their course page for students to download.
Almost immediately, several teachers grasped the use case for the tool and began incorporating it into their curriculum. “Our French teacher records the nightly French news because she wants her class to hear authentic voices,” said Ritter. “So, part of the homework for listening comprehension is to listen to this news program and write about what you got out of it. So, the students are working on not only the listening ear, but the comprehension, and being able to translate that into ‘this is what I learned.’” During the election season, St. John’s history teachers used SnapStream to record presidential debates and watch them with their classrooms.
Surprisingly other departments at the school that were not part of the original plan have also started using SnapStream. Since SnapStream is available on the LAN, anyone can be given access to it.
Sports coaches will grab clips from the NCAA soccer championships and use them to teach their athletes various formations and playing strategies.
And the schools Marketing department uses SnapStream to track for mentions of the school. “We record important news events,” said Ritter. “We recorded some Hurricane Harvey coverage, especially when it mentions St. John’s, so we could use it in our publicity and marketing materials.”
Over the last eight years of using the SnapStream product, Ritter has been impressed with the company’s responsiveness and support. “The support staff is great,” he said. “They follow up to the nth degree, trying to make sure everything’s resolved. We’ll call in and they’ll stay on the phone, they’ll log-in remotely, they’ll go through and look through everything. They’ve been tremendous. They finish everything when they say they’re going to; it’s not like we spend four hours waiting for them to finish something, it’s very efficient.”
Ritter’s experience with SnapStream has been overwhelmingly positive. “For those classes that are video intensive, SnapStream allows the teacher to grab just what they want without having to deal with YouTube, etc. Being able to search the text of the broadcast means teachers can find what they are specifically looking for faster.”
St. John's is an independent, co-educational day school presenting a 13-year sequence of college preparatory training. A non-profit institution, it was founded in 1946 to provide the community with a school of exacting standards in the development of individual, spiritual, ethical, intellectual, social, and physical growth.
Based out of Houston, SnapStream has been making TV/video distribution products for over a decade. From small private schools to large public-school districts (with 100,000+ students) use SnapStream to distribute announcements and broadcast TV to the classroom.
Apart from K12 schools and universities, SnapStream’s diverse list of several hundred customers also includes: The US Senate; the Library of Congress; broadcast networks such as CBS, and NBC; and news organizations like Politico.