Lesson Ideas · Student Engagement · Web 2.0

Connect with authors, guest speakers and classrooms – for free!

Tesseract_Cosmic_CubeLooking to “open the portal” in your classroom and connect with the outside world? It’s easier than you think – I emailed a teacher from Puerto Rico yesterday through Skype Education, and this morning her students connected via Skype with 6th grade Spanish students from my school. At the snap of a finger – it happened. And the students were still talking about it at the end of the day.

Classrooms, authors, guest speakers and virtual field trips are a few clicks away. Below are the best resources that I know of to instantly make these connections. Check them out, and give it a shot! Your students will be super engaged and grateful.

  • Authors on Twitter – This is an active Google Doc that lists authors’ Twitter handles – check them out, see who’s active and responds to readers, and you and your students can Tweet questions and make authentic connections.

  • Authors who Skype for Free! – Amazing list of authors that (at the very least) will video-chat with your classroom for 15 – 20 minutes….for free!

  • Skype Education – Teachers sign up and connect with classrooms and experts from around the world. Co-teach, plan virtual field trips, and collaborate with other students all in real-time. To find willing classrooms that are looking to make connections, a good place to start is the Skype Education Twitter feed. The Skype team consistently Tweets out interested teachers who are looking to make online, classroom connections – this lets you know who is eager to collaborate right now.

  • Mystery Skype – teachers register, and you Skype (live video chat) with a “mystery class” (the teachers know the location; the students do not). The students need to guess the location of the other classroom by asking questions. Teachers sign-up at the aforementioned page, and (big hint!) you can sort results by who has Twitter feeds (so you can see who is active online and is most likely to respond!). Find a classroom, and the students plan out and play “20 questions” to determine where the other classroom is located. It’s pretty popular – check out Mystery Skype on Twitter or check out the #mysteryskype hashtag to take part in the chatter.

  • Skype Guest Speakers – This is a bridge from the Skype Education site. Experts/professionals/speakers offer up live, interactive opportunities for classrooms. On the page, you’ll find dates and times for the events organized by subject. If you’re looking for a simple way to begin introducing your students to different cultures/topics, these pre-organized activities are a wonderful place to start.

  • ePals.com – Connect with classrooms from around the globe through email, video-chatting or other Web 2.0 forums. The teacher signs up at epals.com and searches/contacts other interested classroom teachers. For example, with ePals classroom matching, a middle school class studying Spanish can connect with a class studying English in Spain, or the classes can work on a special project together.

  • Google Connected Classrooms – Similar to Skype Guest Speakers, this site allows users to sign up and attend virtual field-trips. Depending on the activity, users can sometimes video-chat live with the presenters. For example, on November 21st, students can attend a Google Hangout with two NASA astronauts – questions can be asked using the #askNASA hashtag on Twitter.

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