Three Ways to Bring the World Into Your Classroom

Here’s an ongoing, frequently-updated resource for educators interested in using technology to bring some fresh new experiences to their students.

I welcome your feedback, suggestions and additional resources!

#1. Video Conferencing (or, “Two-way” sessions)

Between video conferencing equipment your district may already have in place and newer internet-based video conferencing solutions that operate “in the cloud,” it’s never been easier to bring an expert from around the corner, or around the world, right into your classroom to interact with your students.

These two-way sessions (the presenter can see and hear your group, and vice versa) are intimate, and can be packed with meaningful learning experiences.

Video conferencing in K-12 educationCheck with your district’s IT/Tech person as to which approach would be easiest for your school (you want to ask about connecting with a remote site via H.323 vs. Cloud-based Video conferencing), and you’ll be on your way.

Once set up, you’ll have a field day on the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration’s website, where you can explore literally thousands of low- and no-cost interactive programs from content providers around the globe.

TIP – use the Search box on the CILC site to type in key terms and topics from your current curriculum – fractions, Ancient Egypt, the science of heat, creative writing . . . you name it!

Field Trip Zoom is a new resource where you’ll find additional content providers and a one-stop solution for incorporating videoconferencing into your school year.

Videoconferencing for Canadian schoolsCanadian schools will be interested in the Digital Human Library as well, run by educator Leigh Cassell.

A Story

In the fall of 2014, I connected via videoconference with a classroom of 9th and 10th graders in Chefornak, Alaska. They live 600 miles from the nearest McDonalds! I performed a concert for them, took questions, and asked many of my own. Then, they sang some of their traditional songs for me at the end. It was incredible.

#2. Skype in the Classroom

I just recently discovered Skype Education, which seems to be especially well suited for finding other classrooms around the country and around the world to connect your students with. You can also find lessons, guest authors and speakers, and perhaps most fun of all, you can “Mystery Skype,” which is described as:

an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions. It’s suitable for all age groups and can be used to teach subjects like geography, history, languages, mathematics and science.

What will you need? Just a webcam, a microphone and a Skype account. Fairly simple stuff for you or your tech person to set up.

#3. Webcast Programs (“One-way” sessions)

These live, interactive events require only an internet connection – they’re broadcast online and can be enjoyed on any computer, SMART Board, interactive whiteboard or other internet-connected screen. Classroom settings are ideal, with students participating right from their desks or cozy on the classroom floor. Computer labs work well too, as do larger-group gatherings with a laptop/desktop and projector.

The difference here is that the presenter cannot see or hear your students (hence, the “one-way” label).  While this may sound like a potential drawback, these sessions can be extremely interactive when conducted well, and offer multiple benefits over a two-way video conference, including:

* Economies of scale – these are far more affordable since multiple schools can participate in the same event

* No lag time between presenter and your end – this is a big one!  (Try doing a sing-along via two-way videoconference sometime…)

* Q&A function allows real-time messages to come to the presenter, which they can respond to on screen using the students’ names (“Johnny in Mrs Smith’s class is wondering how long I’ve been studying this topic…”)

* Polling function allows for students to see responses, reactions and questions of fellow students from other states and other parts of the world

Three ways to bring the world into your classroomStudents respond to the presenter just as if he/she is standing right in the room with them, and if the presenter has been with live audiences of students enough times, things can get pretty interesting with students refusing to believe that the presenter can’t see/hear them. (“How did he know the girls would be singing louder than the boys???”)

Many of my own virtual field trips and distance learning programs are now being delivered in this way using the webinar platform, and while I’m not aware of other presenters currently utilizing this format, I think it’s only going to grow in the years to come.

So, have you tried any of these?  Do you have additional resources to share?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below. 

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3 Responses to Three Ways to Bring the World Into Your Classroom

  1. I participate in the “Time Project” each year with my students. It’s a fantastic opportunity for children from around the world to connect and get to know each other.

      • Dawn-Marie sent me the following: “There is a website It was started 20 years ago by Joe Sheik, a teacher from here in London Ontario. It is an amazing program that links many countries from around the world in a variety of activities.

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