Join Oliver Schinkten for an in-depth discussion in this video Bring in experts using videoconferencing, part of Communication in the 21st Century Classroom.
- In this video, we'll look at how educators can bring experts into the classroom with the use of video conferencing tools like Skype. Bringing experts into the classroom to give students suggestions and feedback on a project, or as a guest speaker to share their wisdom and insight, can be a great way to improve learning in your classroom and inspire your students while allowing them to connect with experts and learn more about certain careers and organizations. I worked in a project-based learning program and we constantly brought in community partners to help our students gain insight on important skills, such as photography, video editing, interviewing, energy conservation and a wide variety of other topics.
Also to provide an authentic audience for our student work and to help them network with others from around the community. Now, I believe that bringing in local experts is very important, but in the digital age we can also look beyond the local community. With technology, it's logistically possible to connect with experts from anywhere in the world using tools like Skype or Google Hangouts. Right now I'm inside of the Skype interface, and from here you can add Contacts, you can conduct video conference calls and you can even record videos and send them to others.
Now, it's empowering to be able to reach out to experts from other geographic areas, and something that your students will greatly appreciate. I bet that if you start thinking about friends or relatives of yours, or start talking to co-workers about people they know, you'll find that you have the ability to connect with some very interesting people with a wide range of expertise. As educators, we need to start creating these connections in order to provide opportunities for our students to connect with authentic audiences. I highly suggest giving this a try but before you do, I have a few suggestions that will likely help it go more smoothly.
First, make sure that you have obtained permission from your administration to bring in a guest speaker, even if it's through a live video feed. Our number one job is to protect our students, and we must be sure to take any necessary precautions. Next, consider your set-up for a video conference. I suggest setting up your Skype call as follows. Have your device or web-cam on a table facing the class. It's only fair to allow your guest to see who they're talking to. Next, project the screen up in front of the class so students can see the guest speaker.
And also, have a seat in front of the camera or device, which a student can sit at, look into the screen and ask a question. This is a nice personal touch that will allow the guest speaker to see who's asking the question, and allow them to hear the question easier. Now, prepare your students. If you'd like your class to ask the expert some questions during the call, I suggest having students propose and prepare them before the actual call takes place. Also, make sure you demonstrate the process of asking a question with your students, including sitting in a chair, looking into the camera and using a leadership voice.
You don't want to end up with an uninformed group of students who look disengaged, as this would not reflect well. When asking someone to Skype into your class, be respectful of their time. Most people are extremely busy and their time is valuable. With this being said, I found that most people are willing, in fact, excited about helping improve education. The answer is never yes until you ask the question. With this in mind, have a clear purpose for the call. Ask if they'll be willing to discuss their career, or talk about a specific topic. Let them know how long you'll have to talk, and whether or not they're comfortable with taking questions.
Be flexible. Often in our busy classrooms, we try to have things scheduled or planned, but contacting an expert and asking them to connect at 9:37 am on Tuesday, January 8th, may not work out. Give the speaker some flexibility and work around them. Also, have a back up plan, as you never know when something comes up and prevents them from being able to connect on the day they're scheduled. Consider creating an easy to follow guide for the person you're connecting with. If they're unfamiliar with how to use Skype, they may appreciate this. And be ready to provide some technical support if needed.
Finally, try to bring in people from multiple perspectives. You want to avoid appearing as if you're giving students a biased perspective by bringing in, say, a politician from one political party, and not another, or other similar situations. As with many other concepts in the series, this provides another teachable moment, an opportunity for you to teach students about how to properly communicate and collaborate. If you'd like to learn more about how to use Skype, I recommend checking out Up and Running with Skype for Business by Gini Courter. To learn more about other video conferencing platforms, check out some of my other recommended courses included in the ResourceList.
Do not underestimate the impact of bringing in guest speakers into your classroom. In person or online, they often provide valuable information, different perspectives and can really inspire students.
- Introducing digital literacy to your class
- Understanding our digital citizenship and digital footprint
- Collaborating with Google Drive
- Implementing an LMS
- Offering video office hours using Google Hangouts
- Gathering student feedback with Google Forms
- Creating audio and video announcements
- Using social media to communicate with the community