This is a contributed post from Billy Krakower, co-authored with Jerry Blumengarten.
Connecting students in today’s fast-paced world is important, as students use their devices constantly, but need to find ways to do it educationally and responsibly. As educators, we need to expand our reach beyond our classroom walls.
In 2012, I began participating in an activity called Mystery Skype with my Twitter friend, Nancy Carroll, in Massachusetts. This evolved into what we now call Mystery Location Calls. Ever since that first successful activity—and seeing the very positive reaction of my students—I decided to make connections as much a part of my lessons as possible.
With the use of technology and the ever-changing landscape in education, I found using Google Hangouts and Skype to be amazing tools to help connect my students to the world. Using these tools, you can easily bring experts from all fields and parts of the world into your classroom to give your students first-hand explanations and answers to their questions. Because of limited school budgets and time factors, you can take your students to explore the world via virtual fields trips.
There are so many free resources you can take advantage of to connect your students!
Our book, “Connecting Your Students to the World: Tools and Projects to Make Global Collaboration Come Alive,” explains ways teachers have successfully joined their students to other classes around the world. We present many ideas and projects that you can do with your students during fall, winter, spring and even summer.
One of my favorite projects was connecting with my friend Nancy when she brought her class to Plimoth Plantation (MA) in November. What’s more, my students have had the opportunity to sing holiday songs with a class in Canada via Google Hangouts. During Read Across America Day in March, I loved connecting my students with Jerry as he read Dr. Seuss’s book The Cat in the Hat Comes Back to several classes at once via Google Hangouts. Skype in the Classroom offers many projects and experts that you can can also bring into your classroom, too.
There’s a multitude of ways in which you can knock down your classroom walls. An easy way to start is by joining one of the many communities on Google+, or sign up to participate on Skype in the Classroom. Some of our favorite Google+ Communities are Google Hangouts in Education, G+eduhangout or Mystery Location Calls.
Twitter is another easy way to get started, as you can reach out to different educators, or follow hashtags based upon your grade level or subject area. In this way, you can find other teachers all over the world to start collaborating with. Start by exploring some educational hashtags. Another great place to find a Twitter chat to follow and to start making teacher connections is the Twitter Education Chats Schedule.
Technologies like Google Hangouts and Skype make it easy (and affordable) to connect their students to the world, providing them with cultural experiences and new perspectives without ever leaving the classroom.
To learn more about globally connecting your students through technology, check out “Connecting Your Students to the World: Tools and Projects to Make Global Collaboration Come Alive.”
Co-author Jerry Blumengarten is an educational consultant, speaker, and author. Find on Twitter, @cybraryman1.