Taking classes global is one of my favorite ways that technology redefines what education can do.
It boggles the mind to think that a classroom, individual or place can be thousands of miles away but close enough virtually to engage in face-to-face conversation.
With communication tools like Google Hangouts, Skype and FaceTime, virtually anyone with an Internet connection can be reached from a classroom.
Other classes around the world. Authors. Musicians. Archaeologists. Astronauts. Museum curators. Local community heroes.
The possibilities are as endless as your imagination. It only gets tricky when reality sets in: How am I going to find someone to talk to my class?
This is the most common question when I present on global connections at conferences.
Many educators are interested in the idea of connecting their classes to other classes or individuals that could have a positive influence on their students. They just aren’t sure where to find people to connect with.
Thankfully, the Internet is full of resources to help classes get connected. Here are 10 places where you can turn:
1. Your social media accounts. Chances are you probably use some form of social media, be it Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or Google Plus. That might be enough to find someone to help connect your class. To be sure, though, ask your friends and followers to share it with their network, making that reach exponentially greater.
2. Friends, family and co-workers. Someone who can get your class connected might be in the classroom down the hall OR at a Saturday evening get-together OR at your family holiday gathering. People know people, and it never hurts to ask.
3. #MysterySkype. Mystery Skype is a great first step to connecting to other classes around the country or the world. Two classes meet via video chat online to guess where in the world each other is geographically. If you use Twitter, #MysterySkype is a common hashtag that educators use to find Skype partners. Tweet what you’re looking for and add that hashtag OR scan the hashtag on Twitter for other teachers’ requests.
4. A targeted Twitter hashtag from the Weekly Twitter Chat Times list. Oh, so you’re on Twitter, you say? Good. (If you’re not, we need to talk.) This Twitter chat list has hashtags for practically any content area, grade level or specialization in education. Fire a tweet to a few carefully selected hashtags and see who you can find.
5. The Skype Education website. This site acts as a bulletin board for educators who want to connect to other classes. Post a lesson you want to do and see who contacts you OR check out other teachers’ lessons to see if one fits what you want to do. (If you find something close, contact the teacher and see if you can compromise!)
6. Colleagues from conferences, professional organizations or previous jobs. I’m a bit of a conference junkie (I’m at one today, in fact). I’ve met droves of fellow educators at various conferences and through my state foreign language teachers conference. If I’m struggling to find a fellow class to connect with, I’m turning to them.
7. The Google Hangouts in Education community on Google Plus (+15,000 members). A quick scan of the community includes posts from educators in Argentina, India, Spain and South Korea. It’s a great place to get connected to people and classes all over the world.
8. The Mystery Hangout community on Google Plus (~2,000 members). I have had great success finding classes to engage in Mystery Skype activities using this community. The description of the community explains how to do a mystery Google Hangout and calls it “a mix of Battleships and 20 questions.”
9. People you’ve connected with before. If you’ve Skyped, done a Hangout or had a FaceTime with someone before, don’t be afraid to go back to them! I have a handful of great teachers who I go to when I need a video chat for class. Build your own list!
10. Matt. That’s me, the writer of this post. If you’d like a real, live person to help you find a guest or class for your class, just find me on Twitter or shoot me an e-mail (matt at DitchThatTextbook dot com).
Here’s the bottom line for making global connections for your class: Just ask. You never know who you can get until you ask. One class got some face-to-face time with Shaq thanks to a simple, heartfelt letter from a student. On the other hand, I was recently met with a “yes, for $500” response to a Skype/Google Hangout request. It doesn’t always work out, but you never know until you try.
Your “it wouldn’t hurt, would it?” request might be a life-changing moment for a student!
[reminder]Have you connected with other classes by video chat? Please share your experiences! Can you see how this could work in your situation? Please share that, too![/reminder]
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