Teacher's Guide to Creating A Connected Classroom

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June 6, 2014
A connected classroom is a learning environment that is open to the outside world. One in which students get engaged in real life authentic learning that starts within their classroom and extends to reach other global learners. With  the widespread of internet connection and web 2.0 technologies, creating a connected classroom becomes way easier than any time before. But before we delve into the web tools to use to open the doors of your classroom to to a global audience, let me first share with you some of the academic pluses of using a connected classroom approach.

A connected classroom can help students :
  • Learn and practice a foreign language with its native speakers
  • Problem solve questions with learners from other locations
  • Inviting experts in the filed in the classroom and let students question and learn from them
  • Students get to be exposed to other cultures and develop a sense of global awareness
  • set up virtual field trips 
There are two great tools to created a connected classroom : Google Hangout and Skype. The reasons why I elected these tools in particular are multifold:
  • They are free to use
  • They are simple and easy to set up. No technical knowledge required to operate them.
  • They are web based and do not require any software installation.
  • They allow for both text and video chat.
  • They offer group video calling service.
  • Skype video calls and Hangout video chat can be recorded and shared with others.
One practical example of how you can use Skype and Google Hangout to create a connected classroom is through what is known as the Mystery Skype/Hangout .

What is a Mystery  Skype/Hangout ?

Mystery Skype/Hangout is an educational game in which students from different classes get to meet on Skype or using Hangout video chat and exchange questions about each other's locations. the purpose of the game is to help students guess the location of the other class and in so doing students get to practice a variety of academic skills including speaking, web searching, writing, note taking and many more.

Mystery Skype/Hangout  is suitable for any age group and can be used to teach subjects such as geography, history, languages, mathematics and science. There are different ways to find classes to partner with to play this game. You can for instance use the the Twitter hashtag #mysteryskype class or head over to this page and browse through the different classes featured there. For mystery Hangouts, you can check  Google Plus Mystery Hangout community . Once you find the class you want to connect with, contact the teacher and set up a meeting time.

Before you hold up a Mystery Skype/Hangout class make sure you get students prepared. Here are some tips to help you get them ready :

1- Get your students to fact check information they will include in their answers. They can use the web for this purpose and look for things such as : information about geographical location where they live, number of population, historical monuments, languages spoken, economic mainstay…etc.

2- Connecting with classes in different regions entails knowing the time zone differences between the two locations. To help you overcome this time problem you can use these tools :
3-Assign jobs to students
For students to better benefit from the time they spend communicating with the guest  class, you need to assign each one of them a task to carry out. Some of these tasks include : greeters ( these are students who will greet the guest class when they first connect), askers ( these are students who will pose questions), note takers ( these are the ones entrusted with taking notes), photographers ( they take pictures during the call). For a list of the different tasks  to assign to your students, check out this resource.

Here is mystery Skype in action

More resources on Mystery Skype