Classroom video calls. You can do this. Here’s how.

Ed Tech

Ed Tech | Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Classroom video calls. You can do this. Here’s how.

Chances are, you're already doing video calls in your personal life. Using them in the classroom is easier than you might think! Here's how.

Chances are, you’re already using video calls in your personal life. You FaceTime your far-away family or Zoom with friends from other countries.

“Use it in the classroom, though? I wouldn’t know where to start,” many educators say.

Or maybe you're one of the countless teachers across the globe who were forced into classroom video calls during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

Want to know where to start? Looking to step up your video call game?

You’ve got this. You can totally do it. Here’s how.

5 tips: Classroom video calls for eLearning, distance learning

Video calls are one of the ways we stay connected to our students and staff during eLearning days. At the time of this post update we are all currently engaged in distance learning days for what may be the remainder of the academic school year.

So how can we get started with video calls or how can we continue to utilize them to create a valuable learning experience for our students? Here are some tips and ideas.

1. Choose your platform for video calls.

There are lots of options out there and most are very easy to use. TeamsZoom and Google Meet are all easy to use video conferencing platforms. Check them out and choose the one that's right for you.

how to use google meet for elearning online learning

If you're feeling like you need some help getting up and running with your video platform check out "How to use Google Meet for eLearning, online learning". 

This post includes a step by step guide to starting a live video call with Google Meet.

2. Give your students some norms ahead of time. 

Student tips for successful video calls

When students know what's expected, it helps them to do what's right. This is especially helpful when students are in a remote learning environment, where you -- the teacher -- aren't on hand and keeping a watchful eye. The infographic above can provide some guidance.

3. Set an agenda for your class.

This is helpful for students -- and for parents. Students like to know what the plan is. They like to know how long they must maintain their attention and how much is left to cover. (Adults like this, too!) Even a very basic agenda can help them keep track of how much is left to do.

4. Give everyone an easy way to check in when they log on. 

This helps the teacher know who is present -- and lets the students know who else is in the call. Students can do this through the chat window with a simple "hello". Answering a fun question, like "What's your favorite superhero?" or "What did you have for breakfast?" can put an engaging twist on it. Check-ins like this mean you don't have to "take roll" in front of everyone.

5. Keep the pace steady.

Keeping a steady pace means that you're more likely to end the call on time. Momentum is key. With children or adults, when it seems like the speaker is spinning his/her wheels, it's easy to lose focus. Giving students a way to engage with you can maintain this momentum, too. Ask them for a thumbs up to the camera if they're with you. Use another app like PearDeck, which lets you deliver slides that students can interact with. Check out this post from Stacey Roshan for more ideas for keeping classes connected with Pear Deck

5 ideas: Building student relationships during elearning, distance learning

During elearning times -- especially extended ones -- relationship-building is crucial. If your class is full-time distance learning, student success and morale will depend on it. If you're temporarily doing distance learning, building relationships virtually will help with the disruption to social connections and routines.

Here are some ideas for using video calls to help students build and maintain relationships with each other -- and with their teacher.

1. Do a check-in call.

How are you doing? How are you feeling? Is there anything we can do to support you? Especially in times of isolation and crisis, this may be the most important question asked in an educational setting. In the video interview below, Global Teacher Prize Top 10 Finalist Mike Soskil shares how students and teachers can foster empathy, humanity and compassion during remote learning times.

2. Let students share what they've been learning.

Students learn a LOT outside the confines of school. They have their own interests, their own curiosities. What have they been learning? Give them some face time in a video call to share with the class.

3. Do a book talks discussion.

Independent/voluntary reading is one thing that students can do outside the classroom that has immense academic benefits. It relates to growth in vocabulary, reading comprehension, verbal fluency, and more (Cullinan 2000).
But what will students read? Suggestions from fellow classmates can get them excited about a new book. A class book talk via video call encourages students to read new titles -- and establishes voluntary reading as a cool thing that is done in your class!

4. Interview guests for the class.

No matter where students are when they participate in class video calls, there are likely others around them. The adults surrounding them have vast experience to share. Even the children around them have something to teach others! Let a few students bring a guest on camera with them. Have them ask a few pre-determined questions, and try to stick to a time limit. Let fellow students ask follow-up questions. This keeps learning going, but it also helps the class get to know their fellow classmates -- and their families.

5. Share traditions and daily life.

Learning a little bit about classmates' daily lives -- or the traditions that their families practice -- can build relationships and help students know each other better. 

20 ideas: Using video meetings with students

Educators have access to LOTS of video meeting platforms. Microsoft schools are likely using Teams video meetings. Google schools are going with Google Meet. Zoom, Blue Jeans and FaceTime are other options.
The question most teachers have isn’t which platform to use. It’s how to use it with their students.
The stereotype for remote learning is to do video lectures. Get students on a call. Teach them like you would from the front of the room. Students listen.
There are lots of ways to break out of that stereotype! In this post, you’ll find many options for using video meetings with your students. Some are more traditional. Some are just for fun! Check out this list and find what makes the most sense for you and your students.
1. Whole-class Instruction
Teach to the whole class. This is what people typically think of when they consider educational video meetings. However, it’s only one option (as you’ll see below). Keep direct instruction to a minimum and find ways to engage your students. If they struggled to follow along with direct instruction in the classroom, it’s likely they’ll have an even harder time remotely.
Consider using Pear Deck. Here is a video to get started with Pear Deck in Teams  and Pear Deck for Google Slides and here is an Overview Video of Pear Deck.
2. Small Group Instruction
Small groups can make personal interaction easier and more effective. Create your small groups intentionally. When you have them set, creating a private channel for that group in Microsoft Teams will make scheduling and launching meetings easier. 
Using Google Classroom? Consider setting up a temporary Class with just those kids - and then delete as needed. Make this a more fluid experience where kids come in and out of a special small group class you have set up.
3. Follow-up for Missing Assignments
If a subset of students haven’t turned in a particular activity or project, a small group meeting with those students can get them back on track. Consider awarding badges to students through Microsoft Teams or Classroom to get them engaged.  
Using Google? You can quickly see missing assignments and send email messages to those students and engage them in a smaller group.
All Platforms: Consider gamifying your classroom using sites like Class Dojo and Classcraft . These sites can increase engagement --very important during remote learning. Tip: Classcraft is offering their platform for free until the end of July 2020.
4. Class Check-in Call
When they can’t meet in person, students miss their classmates. They want to see their faces, hear their voices, and know that they’re safe. Schedule a check-in call with no other agenda than checking on each other and socializing. Your students will benefit – and they will thank you!
Use Flipgrid for asynchronous check-ins. For more on Flipgrid, check out this FREE online course.
5. Class Presentations
Giving students opportunities to present to each other helps them develop oral speaking skills. These presentations don’t have to be long or even formal PowerPoint or Google Slides presentations. Consider making a habit of having every student do a one-minute summary of what they’ve been working on or learning. When presenting is a regular part of class, students work on those speaking skills all the time.
In Microsoft PowerPoint: Have students use the Presenter Coach option to help students with their presentation skills.
In Google: Have students use Screencastify to record their screen and themselves with a webcam as they practice the presentation.
6. Read-Alouds
Read-alouds are good for all students – including older ones. According to the University of Iowa Center for Teaching, here are the evidence-based benefits of read-alouds:
  • Reading aloud creates a classroom community by establishing a known text that can be used as the basis for building on critical thinking skills that are related and unrelated to reading.
  • Discussions generated by reading aloud can be used to encourage listeners to construct meanings, connect ideas and experiences across texts, use their prior knowledge, and question unfamiliar words from the text.
  • Reading aloud gives students an opportunity to hear the instructor model fluency and expression in reading technical or literary language. “Through intonation, expression, and attention to punctuation, the reader demonstrates meaning embedded in the text.”
  • Reading aloud helps students learn how to use language to make sense of the world; it improves their information processing skills, vocabulary, and comprehension.
Please note: this is not popcorn reading. A good way to engage your students during a read-aloud is to start the process of sketchnoting with them. Here is a great article called A Simple Way to Get Your Students Sketchnoting.
7. Parent Check-ins
Make connections with parents. They’re an equal partner to ensure the success of their children. Keep them in the loop. Inform them of what their child has been doing right, as well as anything that needs to be addressed. When parents know how they can support learning from the home, it becomes natural and reinforces what’s taught in the classroom. 
Tip: Use Flipgrid to allow parents to leave comments or kudos as you progress through remote learning. Keep the responses private however. 
8. Virtual Guest Speakers
Invite someone to join your Teams meeting or Google Meet to speak to your students. It doesn’t have to be anyone famous or high-profile (although that would be fun and it never hurts to ask!). Have some predetermined questions and let students ask questions through the chat or on camera. Go over norms and expectations with students before the call begins. 
Find virtual guest speakers: The speakers for schools website has a list of upcoming speakers. Or you can just reach out to any individual yourself and ask!
9. Virtual Field Trips
Where could your students go in a Teams meeting? It could be as simple as the dentist office down the street, or as impressive as an international voyage!
Find virtual field trips: Check out our virtual field trips page for dozens of free virtual field trips. Or brainstorm people and places that would make for a great trip and just ask!
Google Arts and Culture is a great place to get started visiting hundreds of places of interest. Take your students to Paris for the day and visit The Louvre or Musee d’Orsay. Use this virtual trip for writing prompts or larger lesson ideas.
10. Collaborate with Another Class
Remote learning does not have to end our ability to collaborate with other classes; in fact, it makes it easier and much more fun. Find another class to meet with (maybe just another class in your own school or one in another country) and to work on a project together or just share ideas. Host a virtual town hall on learning remotely where students share their best practice ideas and how it is going. Can you imagine how cool it would be to hear from kids in Australia how their remote learning is going? This is a great way to get kids more excited and engaged. 
11. IEP Meetings
No need to stop IEP meetings or even pull-outs. Use a virtual meeting to make these extraordinary students feel that they are still connected and have the support they need. 
12. Office Hours
Virtual office hours are a hit during remote learning. Keep a consistent time and be there for your students so they know they can reach out at the same time each day. 
13. Would You Rather Debates
This activity asks students to evaluate choices and explain their thinking These questions are a great way to get a conversation started in a fun and interesting way. Don’t forget to ask students “Why?” after because this can be the best part of the conversation.
14. Twenty Questions
Have kids guess things like characters, time periods or scientific facts. Rules: Players take turns asking only  “yes” or “no” questions in an attempt to figure out the answer.  Ask as many as 20 questions.
15. Movie and Netflix Reviews
Help kids learn to communicate and write by doing mock movie reviews during a team meeting. Assign a few kids each session to go as a fun way to start a meeting or get a conversation started.
16. Virtual Talk Shows
Students take the place of characters, concepts, or even a time period in a virtual talk show. Each student takes the “hot-seat” to answer questions showing their comprehension of an idea from the viewpoint of a person or idea being studied in class.
17. Hot or Not
Students Use two pieces of paper and write Hot or Not and then as the teacher talks about ideas in content the kids decide whether this is Hot (good) or Not (not so good) and then defend their choices. One fun example would be on the topic of The Fall of the Roman Empire The idea could be higher taxes to help support the large Roman Military. Kids could decide if that is a HOT or NOT idea, and then explain why.
18. Two Truths and Lie
Students come to the meeting with Two Truths and a Lie about a literary character, historical figure or event, or math or science concept.Then see if the other students can figure which statement is the lie and why. You can even prepare a collaborative doc that students can see ahead of time.
19. Doodling Together
Students love to doodle and remote learning makes a great way to have them do this collaboratively. They can interpret stories, ideas or people and compare their doodles with their classmates.
Microsoft: Use OneNote and a collaborative notebook 
Google: Use a collaborative Jamboard 
Need more information? Get students Sketchnoting with these introductory videos and learn the why by watching Slyvia Duckworth explain the importance and research behind this strategy.  All this is curated into this Wakelet.
20. PowerPoint Brain Dump
Once your class is ready to start, find a volunteer who is ready to fun present and start the first random slide deck. The volunteer must then present on those slides to the group. You can give people an entire slide deck each or have them tap out to other members after a few slides. Keep the slides to a minimum by using only visuals. The key is getting people to improvise and have fun while practicing their communication skills under pressure!

12 steps: Using video calls for guest speakers

Once, I got the fantastic opportunity to teach a lesson in a fifth grade classroom. The teacher, who knows me, asked, “Would you like to do something special with them?”

Ooh, YES, I responded. I knew exactly what to do.

They had been studying natural disasters and had not talked about hurricanes yet. Hurricanes had been very much in the forefront of news broadcasts and the minds of everyone in the United States with Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria blowing through within weeks of each other.

We needed to talk to some kids who had ridden out the hurricane in their homes. So that’s what we did.

The process we used to find and connect with virtual guest is one you can follow, too. These steps work for traditional face-to-face classes as well as virtual, remote classes. 

video calls infographic using the noun project icons

Click for full-size image.

Steps for successful guest video calls:

1. Decide why you want to do it and what you’re curious about.

Why was it important to do this video call? For me, it all starts with the importance of communication. It’s constantly surging up the lists of important job skills for the future.

Plus, collaboration will be increasingly important. As easy as communication — even global communication — is anymore, the phrase “better together” comes to life more and more.

What are you curious about? This is a great question to brainstorm with students. There’s a variety of ways to find topics:

  • Full-year topics
  • Topics based on current unit or lesson
  • Topics with a thread throughout several units
  • Current events topics
  • Curiosity topics that connect to content

2. Brainstorm the kinds of people who can help.

You don’t have to know the people you might get on a video call. But when you know the type of people you’re looking for, you can do something with that. Think of the kind of expertise and experience you’d like your guests to have.

3. Start targeting a list of potential guests.

I list six places to find virtual guests and field trips in the section below this one But before we do that, know this first …

This is the part that gives teachers anxiety the most. Part of it is interacting with people they don’t know. The other part is fear of the unknown — and fear of failure.

Now that we know what the common fears are, we can start to confront them.

  • Interacting with people you don’t know: People are generally helpful — especially when kids are involved. (Plus, if the worst thing they can say is “no”, just move on if they do.)
  • Fear of the unknown: You might not have done this before, but teachers all over the world do it all the time and rave about the results.
  • Fear of failure: If you can’t find anyone that will help, you’re back where you were when you started — no worse off than before. The potential consequences are nearly non-existent, but the potential benefits are off the charts.

4. Start reaching out.

You never know who you’ll get until you start reaching out. Case in point: A sixth grade girl wrote a fan letter to basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal. He surprised her by saying he would video call with her school and imparted some great wisdom. See the video call here!

It can also come together faster than you think. Don Wettrick is an Indiana educator who teaches a class called “Innovation and Open-Source Learning.” His students were curious about the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Don encouraged them to reach out to any sources they could find on both sides of the issue. Within DAYS, they had set up video calls with people in Israel and Palestine and were asking their questions to them personally.

5. Get your video call platform up and running.

Get a Zoom account and install Zoom. OR log in to Google and go to OR make sure your FaceTime is ready to go.

Does this step seem out of place? Worried about having the tech set up before you start finding virtual guests? If so, YOU may have things out of sequence. Here’s why:

Focusing on learning the tech first can be a never-ending cycle. Plus, there’s so little about Google Meet/Zoom/FaceTime that you really need to know to make this happen.

If you get your guest(s) lined up first, you’ll be forced to get your tech ready and you’ll figure out only what you’ll need to make it happen. This keeps you from getting stuck in the techy mud, so to speak.

how to use google meet for elearning online learning

If you're still feeling like you need some help getting up and running with your video platform check out "How to use Google Meet for eLearning, online learning". 

This post includes a step by step guide to starting a live video call with Google Meet.

6. Start scheduling.

Get on your virtual guest’s calendar — and get it scheduled on yours. Coordinate. And don’t forget about the time zone. Be overzealous about stating which time zone you’ll be using. (Often, I’ll state both my time zone and my guest’s time zone every single time I list a time just to be safe.)

7. Make a plan for each call.

There’s no magic formula here. You don’t have to take a class to come up with a plan. Envision how the conversation might go and how it could fulfill your goals and those of your guest.

“Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.” — Margaret Thatcher

Like Margaret Thatcher suggests, “work your plan” — change it as necessary as the day draws near or even while the call is going on.

Oh, and communicate your plan with your guest. When your plans are in sync, you can both help each other reach your goals for the call.

8. Do a practice call.

This is the easiest way to ward off technical glitches that can derail your precious time together. Do a practice call a day or two before the live call with your class. Make sure you can connect and the audio and video work. If there are problems, you have time to fix them (or get someone to help you fix them!).

Don’t worry about it being awkward. I’ve done tons of these practice calls. If you’re worried about the awkwardness, here’s the script for most all of my practice calls:

  • Say hello. Smile.
  • Thank them for agreeing to do the call. Tell them why you’re excited to be doing the call. Continue to smile.
  • Ask if the video and audio are good on their end. Tell them it looks good on your end. (If there are problems, see if you can work them out together.)
  • Ask any questions you have. See if they have any questions. Smile while asking.
  • Confirm the time/date/length of the call.
  • Thank them again. Smile. Hang up.

Also check out the 5 tips for successful guest video calls below.

9. Prep your students for the call.

There’s not much to this, either. Let them know what your plan is. Discuss behavior expectations. Encourage students questions, brainstorm some possible questions and leave them on the board so kids can use them as necessary. Tell them why you’re excited to be doing this and why you think it’ll be great for everyone.

Planning a guest video call on an eLearning day 

Having a guest speaker join your class on an eLearning day is a great way to bring the world to your students no matter where they are! There are a few tips for successful video calls that will help make your guest video call a fantastic experience for everyone.

Student tips for successful video calls

10. Initiate the call.

I almost always do a quick message (via chat or email or however we’re communicating) the day of to ask if my guest is still good to go. I’ll usually do another message an hour or less beforehand. (I’ll ask, “T-minus one hour until we talk. Everything still OK?”.)

Aim the camera so your guest can see as many students as possible. Try to get students on camera as much as possible.

Call as close to the appointed time as possible. Avoid being early or late. If you’re going to be late, keep your guest in the loop.

While the call is going on, enjoy it with your students! Don’t stress too much about having “the perfect call.” Learn right along with your students.

Ask unplanned follow-up questions. These are the best. They encourage students to be good listeners. When they just ask pre-written questions, they miss out on the best discussion topics — the ones that come up during conversation!

When students talk, have them look into the camera (not at the screen), state their name and ask their question/make their point loudly and clearly.

When you’re done, smile and say thank you. Let the students get on camera and say goodbye, either by crowding around the camera or by pointing the camera at everyone.

11. Reflect on the call afterward.

This is important. It lets students process what they just saw and heard. It also helps remind them of important things they learned in the call.

Simple questions like “What stood out to you?” or “What did you learn?” or “What was most important to you?” can reap huge rewards. Address any teachable moments by asking targeted questions about a specific guest response or statement that needs more discussion or explaining.

There are LOTS of digital tools that let your students continue to connect with a partner classroom — or guest speaker! — after the call ends. You can use …

12. Choose other guests to flesh out the experience you want.

One call doesn’t have to be the end! Would someone else have contrasting or differing views? Showing students both sides of an issue and letting them decide can be powerful and a great skill to prepare them for the real world.

Video calls are some of my favorite classroom experiences and can enrich practically any lesson! If you haven’t tried them, give it a shot.

You probably already have the tech. You have curious students. Pick that low-hanging tech fruit!

What questions do you still have about using video calls in the classroom? What would you add based on experiences you’ve had?

5 tips for successful guest video calls 

1. Start small.

If it’s your first experience with classroom video calls, you don’t have to go big right away! Get your feet wet by setting up a call with someone you’re familiar and comfortable with. That could include a teacher in another building (or your building!), a family member or a friend.

2. Make sure you have the right time and time zone.

Time zones are important! Before doing a call, be sure to ask your guest what time zone he/she is in. Decide what time you’ll call in each other’s time zones. A simple Google search “time in Panama City” (or wherever your guest is) can help you figure it out.

3. Consider a virtual field trip as one of your first calls.

If you want to dip your toes in the video call waters, virtual field trips are great.  

4. Mystery location calls are fun entry points to more calls.

A Mystery location call is a learning game that two classes play together. Two teachers get their classes connected on a video call. Those classes have no idea where in the country (or world!) the other class is. They ask each other yes/no questions back and forth until they can narrow down the state or country. They’re so much fun, and they’re a great icebreaker activity between two classes that can continue to do video calls together.

5. Use great video call etiquette.

By following some tips, your students can look good and be well received in video calls. Here are some of my suggestions:

  • Aim the webcam at the entire class so the guest in the call can see all of you (if possible).
  • Have individual students (or pairs or very small groups) come to the camera to interact with your guests.
  • Have those students identify themselves by first name at least the first time they’re on camera (maybe every time they’re on camera).
  • Ask students to look into the camera when they talk (and not at the screen). This maintains good eye contact.
  • Go over appropriate behavior for students who aren’t talking but are on camera. Often, a little silliness is fun and builds the bond between classes — if students know when it’s appropriate!

6 resources: Finding virtual guests and field trips

One of the top questions I hear about classroom video calls is: "Where do I find people?" There are LOTS of sources for finding great classroom connections, virtual guests, and virtual field trips. Here’s where I’d go to find them, whether you're in a face-to-face classroom or in a virtual/remote learning setting:


Whether you’re looking specifically for a mystery location game to play with another class or not, it’s a GREAT place to find other educators using video calls. Just put it out there and ask if someone would be willing to connect with your class. Feel free to tag @DitchThatTxtbk and we can RT!

Your own social media and family/friends

You might be surprised who can help you find the right virtual guest. Ask for ideas on a Facebook post (yes, your personal Facebook account). Someone you went to high school with that you haven’t seen in years just might have the perfect contact. You never know until you ask!


This free tool helps connect classrooms around the world. Empatico ( empowers teachers and students to explore the world through experiences that spark curiosity, kindness, and empathy. We combine live video with activities designed to foster meaningful connections among students ages 6-11. It's free to educators everywhere.


The goal of Nepris ( is to reduce the barriers between industry and education. For decades many of us have been involved in discussions about creating opportunities for all students to gain exposure to the real world. With Nepris, teachers don't have to spend endless hours and time outside of the classroom to recruit and plan for guest speakers. They provide companies the opportunity to efficiently and effectively extend their education outreach efforts. Normally, Nepris offers a free trial and a paid plan with unlimited live sessions. However, during 2020 school closures, Nepris is offering free access to live chats and recorded sessions.

google twitter search

Use your ninja Google skills

I’ve used this Google search tip to find the perfect virtual guest. I learned it from Skype Master Teacher Dyane Smokorowski (aka “Mrs. Smoke”):

  • Go to
  • Type in “” and your topic. (Do this even if you don’t have a Twitter account.)
  • You’ll find Twitter users with your topic in their profile. They’re likely to be sharing about this topic already and willing to help you.
  • Start clicking on names and reach out!
Child sitting in a chair with a laptop

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  • Thank you for this educational article. As we can see, video conferencing provides value to business in the way that it helps connect a business with its customers, suppliers, clients, etc. It brings a business closer to the important factors and may even help it attract new business. So, it is important to seek guidance from trusted AV solutions provider .

  • Nathan Noles says:

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  • E Pawelek says:

    Quite a bit of new information.

  • Peggy Chapman says:

    Waiting on other PE teachers to see if this fits the classroom environment.

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  • Brian Navarro says:

    Simple easy to follow steps and tips

  • Patricia Rosenbach says:

    Simple easy to follow steps and tips

  • Lisa says:

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  • Diana Martinez says:

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  • DB says:

    Distance learning can seem hard, but we can do it using the tools and ideas that have been given to us.

  • Catherine says:

    I’ve utilized Google Meet and Zoom multiple times with my students last year, but I really like the idea of including a guest in our discussions. I think this would also be valuable with parent communication–especially with transition years (5th, 8th, 12th).

    • Lisa says:

      That is an excellent idea. I would like to employ Zoom meetings with parents this year for a stronger bond in the learning community

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  • […] (On that note: check out Matt Miller’s awesome advice on using Classroom video calls here: Classroom video calls. You can do this. Here’s how.)Don’t forget to engage your students during a video chat. It can be boring to sit through each […]

  • […] Related post: Classroom video calls. You can do this. Here's how. […]

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