What did we ever do without technology? It offers students a chance to “see” the entire world and interact with people on the other side of the world almost instantly. From virtual field trips to expert-led experiences, students are engaging with interesting, knowledgeable people and other students using Google Hangouts and Skype. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of these technologically-based experiences.
- Practice Communication – Communicating with another teacher, expert, or other students over the Internet through video may be new for some students. It is important to teach them about verbal and nonverbal cues, like nodding and smiling, and how to interact with the speaker. Briefly pause before responding to the speaker or asking a question to avoid talking over each other. Practice asking questions and giving appropriate responses and students will soon become confident communicators.
- The Mute Button – Background noise can be very distracting to speakers using video. Give a student the job to hit the mute button after someone in the class asks a question or gives a response. Provide a nonverbal cue so the student knows when to mute the class. Muting improves the sound for the class and the expert.
- Where In the World – Have a world map handy, so students can understand where the expert is located or where the place they are “visiting” is located.
- Prepare – Use virtual field trips to prepare students to visit the actual place in person or a similar location. Maybe your class will be visiting Washington D.C. You can tour the Smithsonian before setting foot in the door to give students a preview of what they will see. This will help them focus on the learning that needs to happen on the “real” field trip, rather than just getting familiar with the place.
- Preview – Check any links provided in the virtual field trip resources to make sure they work and are appropriate for your class and the topic being studied. You might even rethink your lesson based on the material presented. Take this opportunity to discover if you’ll need to introduce vocabulary or give background information to students before they experience the trip.
- Plan Ahead – Have a backup plan if technology goes haywire. Keep a second computer and smart phone nearby in case you have to switch devices, or need to use audio only.
- Reflect – Allow time for reflection after the virtual field trip or interview. Get students’ feedback and have them explain something new they learned. Ask them: What did you like? What surprised or impressed you? What questions do you have? Would other classes be interested in this virtual field trip or experience?