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Open up Your Classroom to the World With Video Conferencing

Many of us are familiar with the use of computers, iPads, Smart Boards, and other technological tools in today’s classrooms. One relatively untapped tool for our classrooms is video conferencing. There are so many exciting possibilities that come with being able to see, hear, and communicate with people all over the world from the comfort of your classroom (or wherever you are learning).

Video Conference SchoolsImage Source:

Let’s check out a handful of fun ways that there increasingly affordable solutions are being leveraged in our schools!

One: Outlandish Field Trips

The idea of visiting with a NASA astronaut without leaving the classroom would have seemed farfetched twenty years ago; however, video technology allowed students in California to do just that. What could be a better resource for children conducting an engineering project than real live astronauts giving a tour of a real live space station training facility– and all right from the comfort of the child’s classroom?

A field trip to NASA or other engineering related facility would have been out of the question without the introduction of video calls from enterprise level service providers such as the Blue Jeans Network within the classroom. Video call technology has set aside the limits of time, distance, and money by providing a way for children to enter a whole new world with the touch of a button.

Two: Experts and Specialists Available Right in the Classroom

School teachers like to invite special guest speakers into the classroom to more readily engage children and provide another level of insight into the topic being studied. Unfortunately, the traditional method of acquiring a guest speaker is often a painstaking process; it can be difficult to find the specific speaker needed within a certain mile radius, and it can be especially difficult to find a speaker with an open schedule for traveling time.

Schools that incorporate video calls as a learning tool give children the opportunity to hear from a slew of informative and engaging specialists in the area of interest, while simultaneously cutting back on teacher and speaker hassle.

Three: Teacher Benefits

Many people don’t realize the endless possibilities available to teachers when video conference methods are introduced into the classroom. The use of video in the classroom is obviously a teaching aid, but many video calls provide a way for teachers to exchange information with other teachers and administrators with ease and efficiency. Teachers can even conduct parent teacher conferences via video calls, thus avoiding the inconvenience experienced by both teacher and parent during the orchestration of in-school meetings.

Most importantly, meetings can be conducted without losing the important non-verbal cues that are so imperative to face-to-face communication. Teachers can enjoy triple the flexibility without sacrificing quality communication.

Four: Classroom Collaboration

What could be cooler than an English-speaking classroom interacting with a Chinese-speaking classroom? Being introduced to different cultures and ideas in the classroom setting is one of the best ways to teach children the value of differences. It can be difficult for children, especially small children, to understand the concept of human differences without experiencing those differences for themselves. This opportunity is afforded richly with the integration of video calls in school systems around the world.

Video calls allow entire classrooms to collaborate on a global scale. This provides a way for students to experience new cultures and new ideas. Video calls make it possible for students to interact socially with other students that it would be impossible to meet in a real-life setting.

The emphasis put on cultural and global awareness within the classroom could be significantly boosted with the integration of regular video calls to collaborating classrooms around the world. With video calls, there is no reason to let the classroom walls be a limit to learning.

Five: Increasing Social Presence in the Digital Classroom

One of the shortcomings of today’s online and hybrid classrooms is limited opportunity for social engagement. Social learning is an engaging, productive part of effective learning, and teachers working online would be well advised to make opportunities to incorporate it into their course work.

When online teachers and students get digitally get together via the face-to-face medium of video conferencing (especially solutions that allow many participants to be viewed together at once), they recreate significant elements of the physical social gathering.

Video calls that foster student growth, learning, and cultural awareness have become a valuable resource to school systems everywhere. The exciting new developments occurring with the integration of video calls in the classroom give students and teachers the potential to engage, interact, and collaborate in incredible new ways!

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):

20 Excellent Free Tools for Interactive Classroom Collaboration
Living in Beta and Moon Shot Dreams – Inspired Teaching With @FollowMolly
Education on the Go – How to Turn Your Phone into a Mobile HotSpot

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I Can’t Wait to Find out What the Next 5 Years are Going to Teach me!

I’ve had an amazing, inspiring, and incredibly educational experience while evolving EmergingEdTech into one of the most visited education technology sites on the Web over the last 5+ years. The site now averages over 50,000 unique visitors a month and is approaching 20,000 subscribers consuming content across a handful of social media platforms.

I can hardly believe that it’s become so popular, and I feel blessed and humbled by it. I couldn’t be more grateful for the relationships I’ve built, the things I’ve learned, and the gratitude of so many readers.

While preparing for a much needed vacation, I found myself reflecting this week on how much I’ve learned since launching the site in the spring of 2009. As I’ve gotten deeper into teaching in recent years I’ve grown from a passionate observer and commentator to an inspired, grateful practitioner. I thought it would be fun to consider which of the many ideas I’ve been steeped in are the most powerful and meaningful.


If I could select a handful of concepts to “shout from the mountain tops”, what would they be? While I know that these ideas will continue to morph over time, as of right here, right now, here’s are 5 things I’ve learned that I think are worth emphasizing.

1. Active Learning is Engaged Learning

We learn so much more when we do. Isn’t everyone a kinesthetic learner to some extent? When you set your hands and mind to an active pursuit, the other senses can get further engaged.

Without getting lost in definitions, it is not a huge stretch to say that many formal learning concepts, ideas like Problem Based Learning, Constructivist Learning, Experiential Learning, and so on, are all forms of Active Learning. They all lend themselves to an improved learning experience in comparison to the more passive process of simply listening to a lecture. That isn’t to say that a lecture can’t be a good learning experience, it can, but when students are doing, thinking, and moving, they are more likely to be engaged and learning at a deeper level.

Of course, I should point out that technology is not essential to Active Learning, it is simply offers a rich set of tools that lend themselves to many Active Learning possibilities.

2. Flipped Learning Makes Serious Sense (when done well!)

‘Flipped’ Teaching and Learning is one of the most powerful ideas I’ve come across when it comes to uses of digital technology that can provide an improved learning experience.

In the first few years of reading, writing, and learning about education technology I found myself consistently thinking, “a lot of these tools and techniques are fun and cool, but are any of them ultimately improving learning outcomes?”

With so many industries being “digitized”, was there a path for education to embrace digital technologies in a positive way (rather than being transformed in a radical but not entirely positive manner, as has been the case in the music industry for example)?

When I stumbled across reverse instruction, I knew I had finally found a use of technology that could truly help students and teachers and advance learning. Around the same time, evidence was coming to light indicating that blended learning is more effective than either ‘ground’ or online learning alone, and further supported the case for flipped instruction (which is ultimately a more specific, structured form of blended learning, to my way of thinking).

The ‘flip’ still has plenty of detractors, and when it is done poorly it can fail, but there is more evidence coming to light every day showing that when done well flipped teaching techniques can improve learning outcomes. I believe the flip is here to stay and I find it pretty easy to imagine that 10 years from now, it will be commonplace.

3. Students who are ‘Making’ are on Their way to Becoming Lifelong Learners

Creation moves me, inspires me, and keeps me going. How about you?

Similarly, when a teacher experiences that moment when a student proudly demonstrates or presents something that they created, this is also a moving, inspiring moment.

When students learn skills that they can use to create – whether they are making physical objects such as a piece of art or a more functional item, or creating digital content – they are often learning skills that they can use again and again throughout their lives.

Look for opportunities to let your students create and be ‘makers’, as part of their course work.

And yes, this is essentially another form of Active Learning, and it does not require technology, but technology can play a powerful role as a maker tool.

4. Social Engagement Enhances Outcomes in Most Digital Learning Modalities

Social interaction is one of the key elements that are present in the traditional face-to-face classroom, but is limited in many online learning environments.  Bandura’s Social Learning Theory posits that “people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling”. If one subscribes to theories of social learning, it logically follows that finding ways to increase social interaction in digital learning situations can enhance learning. Socialization also provides opportunities for emotional engagement, another important factor in the social learning process.

Leveraging social interactions can benefit partially online learning modalities (i.e. hybrid, flipped, blended) as well as fully online learning. This can be as simple as required participation in a discussion forum after consuming flipped learning content, or as involved as a collaborative group project.

Find ways to bring social interaction into digital learning experiences.

5. Never Stop Learning

When teachers model lifelong learning, they are providing an example that students need to see. The same goes for parents only more so, since they are a far bigger influence.

For me personally, I thrive through continued learning opportunities. This has been one of the most rewarding things about creating and ‘living’ EmergingEdTech over these last five years – the opportunity to learn, learn, learn.

Of course, another huge benefit has been getting to interact with enthusiastic, passionate, knowledgeable readers like YOU! Thanks for these last 5 years. I hope you’ll stick around for the ride as the next 5 years roll by!

So, what would your list look like if you wrote one?

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
7 Way That Social Networking Tools Can Yield Social Learning in the Classroom
Flipping the Classroom Facilitates Active Learning Methods
Student Created Content is an Exciting and Inspiring Learning Tool that Teaches Many Skills

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Instructional and Education Technology Tweet Wrap for the Week of 07-21-14

July 26, 2014

This week’s collection of inspiring, informative, useful, or just plain fun tweets about education and instructional technology articles, resources, etc. (Originally posted on Twitter by @EmergingEdTech over this past week … collected here to share with our blog readers). This week’s Tweet Wrap features an amazing ‘edtech’ journey, a wealth of resources and tips, a […]

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5 Successful BYOD Practices and Policies for the Schools

July 24, 2014

“Bring Your Own Device” Programs are Increasingly Popular in our Schools. What are the Key Factors in Successful Implementations? Are you thinking about implementing BYOD in your school? Or have you already done so, and had to overcome some obstacles? Businesses everywhere have been buzzing about the potential benefits that can be gained from an […]

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Kahoot is a Fun Free Game-Based Classroom Response System

July 22, 2014

Engaging Classroom Tool Encourages Students to Take Ownership of Learning & Move From “Learner to Leader”! Kahoot! was launched in 2013 as a game-based classroom response system. Easily accessible by any device with a web browser and Internet connection, Kahoot! gives teachers a new and engaging method to test student knowledge and encourage classroom participation. […]

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Game-based Social Skills Assessments: Making the Play for Better Emotional Health

July 20, 2014

Gamification and Social Skills Development can Work Hand in Hand to Improve Emotional Well Being and Outcomes Educators and parents are now seeing that games—long thought to be a waste of kids’ time—can be powerful learning tools. Games show promise in improving students’ problem solving skills, learning motivation and engagement, and their test scores. They […]

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Instructional and Education Technology Tweet Wrap for the Week of 07-14-14

July 19, 2014

This week’s collection of inspiring, informative, useful, or just plain fun tweets about education and instructional technology articles, resources, etc. (Originally posted on Twitter by @EmergingEdTech over this past week … collected here to share with our blog readers). This week’s Tweet Wrap features Plickers, a new Flipped Chemistry Community, the power of Social Learning, […]

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Newsela – Daily News Articles Customized at 5 Different Reading Levels

July 17, 2014

How cool is this? Real-World News from Major Publications offered at Different Comprehension Levels for Your Classroom! Have you ever wished there was a way to get current news translated so that students with different reading comprehension levels could understand them? Well, there is, and the basic service is free! Newsela is an innovative and […]

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Getting Students to Engage With Digital Learning Materials – 2 Good Strategies

July 15, 2014

Making Sure Students Really Watch, Listen to, or Read Online Learning Content is Often Cited as a Challenge in the Flipped or Blended Classroom “How do I make sure my students will watch the video?” When I discuss flipped teaching and learning with teachers who are just starting to learn about it, after they’ve had […]

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The Annual TLIPAD Conference – “A Conference Like No Other”

July 13, 2014

Have you Registered for the 2014 Teaching & Learning iPad Conference yet? Instructional Technologist Vann Lassiter attended the 2012 Teaching & Learning With the iPad Conference and had some pretty wonderful things to say about it. If you are using iPads (whether you have 1 unit or a 1-to-1 program!), at any grade level, you […]

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