How to take your classroom to the next level — the world

How to take your classroom to the next level -- the world

Classes of old stayed within the four walls of the classroom, but today’s technology gives us unique opportunities to kick those walls down and connect with people everywhere. (Flickr / woodleywonderworks)

Last month, my students and I participated in our first Mystery Skype.

We met with another class from South Carolina. We traded the traditional yes/no questions about our locations — in Spanish. We ended our call by asking each other some basic questions — in Spanish — about ourselves and our schools.

It was great for students because they met some kids they didn’t know and had a great time.

It was great for me because they were using their Spanish organically and in a real-world context.

As I work more and more with collaborative web tools like Skype, Google Docs, blogs and others, I’m coming to a conclusion that could have huge impacts on my classroom and others.

We don’t have to hold our classes within the four walls of the classroom anymore.

We can break out to other classes and schools in our area, state or country — or anywhere in the world.

We can potentially connect with anyone and watch, talk, write or share — for free.

An example: Skyping with Spain

I’ve started talking to a teacher in Spain about Skyping with her class. She’s an English instructor, so her classes are learning the language that my students speak natively, and vice versa.

We are talking about having a Mystery Skype to kick things off between our classes, but our goal is that it doesn’t stop there.

We want our classes to talk to each other as a group.

We want our students to pair up virtually across the Atlantic to talk face-to-face.

We want students to write in blogs for the other country’s students to read and comment on.

In short, we want to share in learning new languages from different parts of the world.

The power of connecting

Think of the impact that sharing learning with others in different locations can have:

  • You get instant student engagement. When students get to meet peers in a different place, you have their attention.
  • You get different perspectives. Just being in a different area often brings different ways of seeing the same thing.
  • You get teamwork in a digital-age way. This is one of those skills that may be so important to students in their future jobs (that may or may not exist yet).

It seems natural to me to connect in this way in the foreign language field. But it could work so well in other venues, too:

  • English students could share their writing or have discussions on what they’re reading or studying.
  • Science students could do the same lab and share similarities and differences OR collect samples from their location and compare and contrast them with those of students in another area.
  • Math students could show how they completed certain problems, share solutions to struggles they have with certain concepts, or compete in long-distance math games.
  • Social studies students could share research and class presentations OR have discussions about opinions, thoughts and viewpoints about events in history.
  • Physical education and health students could share good and bad experiences from certain physical activities OR share ideas on how to live healthy lives.
  • Music and art students could share what they’re practicing or working on OR share tips on how to overcome challenges.
  • Any class could connect with an expert in whatever the students are studying for a question and answer session or to see explanations or demonstrations.

Let’s do it!

Today, we have amazingly powerful technology at our disposal that can transport us to places that cost thousands of dollars to visit.

We have teachers eager to try something new in hopes that students get new insights or make huge gains.

A harvest of huge proportions is ready to be reaped for our students. 

There’s never been a better time to ditch those textbooks and kick down the four walls of the classroom.

So let’s start kicking.

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Matt is scheduled to present at the following conferences this school year:

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