To cover the likelihood of connections slowing down or being interrupted, streaming uses a buffering system, whereby a few seconds of the media is temporarily stored on your computer so that the data stream is always fractionally ahead of what is being played.
Furthermore, the information is gone from your computer once the file has finished playing. This is a major factor in reducing problems with copyright, as the file is never fully stored on any machine other than the streaming host (the computer sending the file).
However, it's not just accessing files over the internet where schools can get the benefit of streaming. With digital video cameras, webcams, VCRs and DVD-players now proliferating, many schools have libraries containing hundreds of items of video and audio curriculum materials. By turning these into streaming media, schools are able not only to share the resources, but also to create a valuable and accessible educational archive.
The software to do this is readily available: many schools can run Microsoft's Media Server at no extra charge; Apple offers a free streaming media solution called Darwin Streaming Server; and RealNetworks has a special package for schools using its streaming media software.
Once on a streaming server, this archive of resources can be made readily available through the school network, or for home study and to other schools via the internet. For those excluded from education for any reason this is a potential goldmine.
It doesn't stop there. In the near future it will be possible to stream audio and video to a mobile phone. Although, at the moment, the cost of the technology is prohibitive, the idea of being able to deliver educational content direct to pupils' mobile phones is getting some more forward-thinking educationists a little hot under the collar.
* Apple Darwin Streaming www.apple.comquicktimestreamingserverfaq.html
Microsoft Media Server www.microsoft.comwindows windowsmedia9seriesserver.aspx
RealNetworks www.real.com e-Learning www.e-learningcentre.co.ukeclipseResourcesstreaminglearning.htm Click and Go Video www.clickandgovideo.ac.uklinks.htm