Collaborating with Google Hangouts and Skype

One of the greatest advancements in technology is the ability to video conference with anyone from all over the world! With high-speed internet and a variety of hosts, it is easy to connect with people from around the world, and it seems like it is going to be a more natural thing for our students as technology further develops. While meeting in person has its own benefits, you are limited by a variety of factors.

As I work with teachers, my hope is to get them to try some activities that break down the four walls of their classroom and allow them to connect and collaborate with people from all over the world. Often times at Christian schools, we get caught up in our own community. With the rise of social media, our students are connecting with people from the area but also with people from other states. This is something that we should take advantage of!

Mystery Skype/Hangouts

This is definitely one of the most popular ways of using video conferencing within the classroom. I remember when I first heard about this! How amazing an opportunity for our students to be able to practice the skills they are learning while also interacting with people from a different global area!

If you aren’t sure what exactly I am talking about, here is a brief overview:

  • A teacher connects with another teacher from a different location. They find a time to conduct a video chat
  • The classes come up with roles (See Mystery Hangouts EduProtocol by @debbiemaddox), such as facilitator, question asker, researcher, etc.
  • The teachers connect via Skype or Google Hangouts (or other forms of video conferencing).
  • Facilitators introduce the class, and then each class takes turn asking yes or no questions.
  • As questions are answered, researchers try to pinpoint the location and help develop new questions.
  • Once locations have been guessed, classes can engage in a chat about the other class to learn more about them and their location.

As students interact with other classes, they begin to see that people around the world are more similar than different. We have these differences that are developed because of culture, but we are all designed in the image of God!

Here are some helpful links for getting started:

Mystery Skype – Microsoft in Education

Laura Candler – Mystery Skype Game

Mystery Hangouts Google+ Community

How to Set Up a Mystery Hangout YouTube Video

Bring in an Expert

Do you remember being more interested in the archaeologist explaining a topic more than your teacher? There is something about learning from an expert that causes people to listen. Authority is already established, and people trust that person based on his/her work. While we can’t always find someone in our local community to teach about a topic (although I recommend getting someone in person!), we can find ways to connect with experts from around the world! It doesn’t matter if that person is a published author or a B-list celebrity. Just by having experience in a field or subject matter makes that person relevant to your students.

Think about some ways you might accomplish this in your classroom. Are you currently reading a novel? Obviously, you can write a letter to the author and maybe get a response. However, try reaching out to the author to see if your class can interview him/her through a video conference. You would be surprised at the engagement level this would bring to your class!

Are you exploring an area but don’t have the funds to travel there? Try bringing in an expert to give a virtual field trip! Many state and national parks and exhibits provide these options to talk with an expert. Check out the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration for ways to connect with others.

Globally Connect

Even though you may not be a social studies teacher doesn’t mean you shouldn’t connect with other classrooms. Allow your students to be the experts on a topic and be brought in to a classroom to teach a concept or idea. Allow students to communicate in the language they are learning with an authentic audience. Collaborate together by doing a book study. The work your students do will more than likely be of higher quality because they are creating for an authentic audience.

Conclusion

Technology has changed drastically! The opportunities are students have are exponentially greater than what we ever had as students. Don’t deprive your students of authentic learning experiences because you don’t feel comfortable! Take the opportunity to venture into something new. If you fail, make sure you are failing forward and learning from each experience. Don’t we want our students to do that as well? You are the teacher! Model risk-taking and reflection so that our students will also be willing to try new things!

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