Global Connections

Tips for success in linking students to experts worldwide.

GUEST COLUMN | by Hayley Hutchinson

CREDIT Hayley HutchinsonThe days of hoping to convince experts to come to the school in person and speak to students, or begging for field trip funding are over. While the physical interaction is always ideal, circumstances like money, distance, and time can make this difficult or impossible. Embrace the fact that you can reach nearly anyone online these days and seek out experts to speak to your students via platforms like Skype, Facetime, or Google Chat!

Want to give it a try? Here are some tips to make your experience the best it can be for yourself, your guest, and your students.

Finding a Connection

What’s the objective? When seeking out guests, always keep this in mind. For example, are your students working on a project? Find experts in the field. Do you want to work on

Even if you are unsure, just try. You never know who will respond and it might turn into a great experience for your students!

critical thinking skills and interact with other students? Try a “mystery skype”. (ISTE*S 2b,2c) Whatever the goal, seek out people who will help you meet it.

Reach out far and see what happens. I send out way more invitations than I get responses. Once I decide on an objective, I write up a detailed invite that includes what type of discussion or presentation I am looking for. I look up companies and people, send emails, tweet out invitations, or post on Google groups. Sometimes nothing comes of it, but the responses I do get are worth the effort. Even if you are unsure, just try. You never know who will respond and it might turn into a great experience for your students!

Be flexible. Once someone has gotten back to you, offer them all the available times and platforms you can.

Ask for a practice call. This not only tests connection, but it allows your guest to ask questions and briefly visit. It also helps ease any anxiety you may be having.

Preparing Students

Now that you’ve found someone, help your students get ready.

Do some research. What can students find out beforehand? Have them research and formulate questions ahead of time. Maybe they can read an article about the visitor or the topic. (ISTE*S 3b, 3c) I also prepare my only questions and create one handout with all the questions that they can use during the call.

Discuss proper etiquette. Make clear your expectations during the call. Students should always keep their head up and be paying attention. My big rules are no laptops, no phones, and no breaks. I also discuss how the audio is more sensitive than they might think, so staying quiet unless they are responding or asking a question is important.

After the Call

Have a follow-up discussion. Always ask students what they thought about the call, or give them time to share their thoughts with each other.

Send a thank you note. Whether through email, paper, or video response, have students send a thank you to share your gratitude. After all, someone has just given their time for free to help your students expand their experiences. They deserve it. And your students will thank you, too, for taking the time to make it happen.

Pictured above: Physics students during a recent interaction with a college professor and his students.

Hayley Hutchinson teaches secondary science for USD 260 Derby, KS. She has an M.S. in Educational Technology and enjoys connecting her students with experts from all over the world as well as their own community through virtual interactions. Follow her @hayjhutch

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