How to Use Technology to Bring Experts in the Field into Your Classroom

Guest speakers always add another dimension to teaching; however, getting an expert to come into your classroom may be a little more challenging. Speakers often have work schedules, travel schedules and other responsibilities to navigate. Educators have class schedules, late starts, parent conferences, etc. to deal with. Sometimes finding the right time to meet is impossible.  Here are a few creative ways to get experts into your classroom, using the power of technology:

iTunesU has been available to educators for several years, but many teachers still do not know what the big deal is. iTunes U gives educators the opportunity to download classes and lectures from leading experts and universities all around the country. Do you want to learn more about management? Why not learn from Peter Drucker?  If you are the type of teacher who wants to create your own course, you can use the iTunes U app to do so.

Skype is a tool that I have been using in my classroom for several months. In October, my students and I used Skype to talk with 1800GOTJUNK CEO Brian Scudamore about the benefits and challenges of entrepreneurship. My students and I talked with author Laura Vanderkam (168 Hours and All the Money in the World) about time and financial management. It took a simple email to each contact and a coordination of schedules.

The power of technology makes it possible to bring true experts into your classroom and many of them are willing to donate their time to make a difference. It takes effort and be prepared to be rejected, but it is truly worth the effort! I must say that using both tools has increased student engagement and understanding of content. It just started with the click of a mouse.

Everyone loves meetings right? Just kidding. In every meeting, there is at least one note taker. Here's a great site that I learned about from a blog the other day. It's called Perhaps you can use it in your situation to record meeting minutes. Check it out!

Create Your Own Chat with TodaysMeet

When snow is in the forecast, it always makes me remember one graduate class that I taught in the middle of February. We had a major snow storm hit the east coast that year and it prevented us from meeting. I had to scramble to "have class" without actually "having class." Many years ago, it was very difficult to come up with some options.

I recently stumbled upon an article that mentioned a free back channel site called TodaysMeet. If you are not familiar with what a back channel is, the term was coined to describe everything that is going on in a room without the instructor knowing it. Think about it as passing notes back in our day!

In today's world, a back channel isn't necessarily a bad thing. We are creatures of conversation and using a back channel actually enhances and stimulates conversation of a particular topic.  TodaysMeet is a great way to create a temporary chat room  which anyone can join without a username and password. It's been around for awhile, but is very useful in education. Participants have to express what they are trying to say in 140 characters or less. All you have to do is share the link with participants.

Think about its potential in any classroom. If you have your own free private chat room  image all of the conversations that could be discussed and developed with your facilitation and monitoring. I image having "office hours" or "tutoring" at night for students who cannot make it after school  I imagine collaborative group projects, which use this as a project management tool, where students can share information and links.

Using the Internet to Help with Pronounciation

I know that I say this often, but I love getting the chance to work with other teachers when I teach a graduate class. I almost feel guilty because I learn new ideas every time I teach and I get paid for it! In all seriousness, I do learn many great ideas from my graduate and high school students alike.

One of the most recent ideas that I learned about came from one of my students from New Jersey, Christina. She was doing a project for my class and introduced me to a site called Forvo. It is a site that claims that it has "all of the words in the world. Pronounced." She was having her class read a story, which contained many Hebrew words. She decided to use the site to help correctly pronounce the words to her class, so that they would get a better understanding of its meaning and usage.

I decided to check it out and found it to be a useful site for any classroom in any subject area. Users have the ability to search through a library of audio files, which offer the correct pronounciation of any word in dozens of languages like English, Italian, Estonian, and even Mongolian. When you find your word, it will provide the link to an audio file, which will play the word.

One of the most unique parts of the site is that members can contribute by recording their own voice recordings to the site. It also provides different categories that users can find words in. For example, do you need to find a certain pop culture word? Are you studying about another culture and want to pronounce a certain holiday? There are a variety of words in a variety of characters to choose from.

Overall, I would say that this is a great site to use in any subject area because of the shear variety of words pronounced. Check it out and let me know what you think! Reply below with your thoughts.

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