When I was a high school student, the extent of technology we were connected to was a Cingular cell phone with the game “Snake” (it’s was super cool), AOL Instant Messenger, and 3-5 classroom computers with the oh-so-powerful Netscape web browser. The tech tools we had available to us were merely for productivity and publishing and did not have the capability of worldwide engagement. Students today live in a world surrounded by social media, super-fast Wi-Fi networks, and the infinite depository of information: the internet. The power of the internet coupled with improvements in technology equipment has created a new opportunity for students to be engaged in the learning process: video conferencing.
Typically, when someone hears about video conferencing they assume it refers to members of Corporate America sitting around a conference table talking to someone on a screen. While they are not wrong with this assumption, video conferencing is not just for business! Video conferencing can be one of the most powerful tools educators can use in schools. By tearing down the four walls of the classroom, teachers and students are now able to connect with other classrooms from around the world in real time. Additionally, video conferencing allows for teachers to connect with and bring in to the classroom guest speakers even if the individual cannot physically be in the room. Think about how powerful it is for students to have authentic audiences to ask questions and share their learning.
Just recently, my high school partnered up with a local elementary school to video conference using FreeConferenceCall.com. A 9th grade Spanish class was partnered with a 3rd grade Dual Immersion class and our Spanish Translation class was partnered with a 5th grade Dual Immersion class. Video conferencing using FreeConferenceCall.com allowed for students at both levels to authentically engage in conversations, in real time, using the language skills they have been practicing. The elementary school students were able to get to know the high school students better and the high school students were challenged to show their competency alongside the very skilled elementary school students. Think about how powerful and relevant the learning is when the task reflects real-life experiences.
Use video conferencing to create authentic, real-world situations for your students. Technology is meant to help make our lives more efficient and to provide us with new opportunities. There is so much more educators can do when we expand the learning beyond for walls and we bring the world to our students and our students to the world.