Have you ever heard or said a version of the phrase “Technology (or the Internet or computers) brings the world into the classroom”? While undoubtedly that’s true, video conferencing offers the chance to connect with real people outside the classroom in real time, which is a valuable learning opportunity.
You may only know Skype as a way to talk to out of town relatives. But Skype is also a valuable resource for educators!
A great way to use Skype in the classroom is Mystery Skype—a “global guessing game” played by two classrooms. Each class gets 20 questions to figure out where in the country or world the other class is. Mystery Skype can also be used to bring in virtual guest speakers to talk with students about a fun career or a subject you’re studying. Finally, Mystery Skype can be used as a tool for students to practice a foreign language with native speakers and for English language learners to hone their English skills. Visit Skype’s education page to find participating classrooms and speakers.
Like Skype, Google Hangouts is another free way to bring guest speakers into your classroom. But Hangouts has some additional and useful features. Hangouts makes it easy to have multiple people in a conference at once, which you can use to host a virtual career day or a debate about a topic. Hangouts also allows screen sharing, which makes it easy for speakers to show a presentation or other documents while talking to your classroom.
In addition to connecting with other classrooms or bringing in guest speakers, you can use video conferencing to bring parents into the classroom to watch student presentations without requiring them to leave their home or office. Oh, and both these tools can be used for free!
And remember, safety first. Before using any videoconferencing in the classroom:
- Inform students, school administration, and parents. Detail in writing who will participate, when the conference or chat will take place, and its purpose.
- Work with the outside participant(s) to set ground rules. Rules may include who will be present and whether the conference can be recorded.