3 Easy Ways to Connect Your Classroom With the World

Setting the Stage

It's usually this time of year in my classroom that I would get bored and get the teacher's equivalent of cabin fever and want to shake something up in order to re-energize. Perhaps you feel the same way, but even if you don't; it's worth your while to see what's possible! With that in mind, I would love to challenge you to consider how you might utilize the wide array of tools and resources available for teachers that allow you to extend your learning space to anywhere in the world, and to connect with professionals, and other classrooms around the world. As with any usage of classroom technology, you must have an instructional goal in mind prior to planning for the usage of technology. So, here's what's possible. There are resources available from multiple providers that allow you to video conference with individuals and/or other classrooms around the world. Several of the resources have very a intuitive workflow and methods for connecting with willing participants who have volunteered to take part in the conversations, and others provide you with the tools to have conversations, but you must do the legwork of making the initial connection with the individual or group that you want to "bring into" your learning space. For example, Skype Classroom has a group of regular volunteer professionals willing to talk about their trade, you just have to book them, however; that's often tough as they are heavily sought after. If you set up your own connection via friendships, relatives, etc and used Skype as the means to connect and email as the means by which to plan the connection, then you might have better luck and better fit it into your schedule.
Again, think about who you want to connect with and why, and then use that as a guide to set your instructional goals, and then read below for ideas of how to connect. Finally, don't forget to seek me out for help with the tech, and/or the usage of it to meet your goals!

 1. Skype in the Classroom

This set of resources is the most well-developed and supported of all the connected classroom resources available to educators. To get an idea of what's possible with Skype, carefully examine this graphic take from their website.

As you can see, there is a great deal of support available from Microsoft and Skype on the how and why questions, as well as in how to build the connections, and how to set access them. Mystery Skype is a unique component of this set of services. Think of delivering the game Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego in a regulated and orderly format via a webcam connection. It's extremely fun, engaging, and educational. Critical thinking geography skills will be showcased with Mystery Skype, as well as communication skills, and collaborative teamwork, plus your learners will have copious amounts of FUN!

2. Google Connected Classrooms

This is a Google Plus Community built around similar goals as the Skype Classrooms network. Once accepted (you must "join" the community) you can follow the threads in the community to build relationships with other classrooms and industry experts in order to connect your classroom. You can set Google Plus Notifications in order to get emails when new people post to the Community. Think of Communities as a group of people sharing similar ideas and resources on a topic that they are passionate about. It's a bit like Pinterest without all of the pictures.

A really cool feature of Connected Classrooms used to be the Virtual Field Trips, now they have all moved to the Google Expeditions page. Classroom applications for Google Cardboard Virtual Reality tools are endless, and there are multiple free, and paid options for how to get VFTs into your classroom. If you're interested; let me know-I can help you make this a reality!

3. Schoology Global Classroom Connections Group

Several innovators at Schoology have created a Global Connections group (Access Code wbn43-5phf4) (Remember, this is a group, not a course). This group has over 100 members from around the world and it's full of educators just like you who want to connect via Skype, Google Hangouts, Appear.In, etc. Sign into Schoology, join the group, make connection plans, and let me help with the logistics!


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