Connected classrooms: visiting the world from your school!

This week, I have decided to talk about a great tool that I discovered last week. It’s the Google Connected Classrooms tool that now offers virtual field trips.

Since technology is now a huge part of teaching, being able to show to students places they would not have been able to visit is a great opportunity. I believe that English as a second language teachers can use this application to help their students develop their language skills while also discovering something different.

First, let me explain exactly how this works. Google Connected Classrooms offers different tools for teachers. On their website, a variety of field trips are posted on a schedule http://connectedclassrooms.withgoogle.com/ . These field trips are called hangouts. Teachers can simply show the live presentation on a smartboard in their classroom to their students. However, they can also RSVP and try to be one of the 4 classrooms taken to be live participants to the field trip (a webcam is necessary), meaning that their students will have the chance to interact with the guide! Here is Google’s tutorial on how to use Hangouts: http://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/cc-faqforteachers.pdf

I believe this tool can be of great use to English as a second language teachers. As I have mentioned before, this could be a way to help students improve their language skills. Also, teachers can do follow-up activities on the field trip, for example a written assignment. I believe that this offers students the possibility to do something different, interesting and rewarding, while also being educative. The following link offers a video showing a little bit how the field trips go:

http://9to5google.com/2013/11/04/googles-new-connected-classrooms-program-takes-students-on-virtual-google-hangout-field-trips/

On another note, while researching information about this tool, I came across an article from Brian Fagioli on betanews.com who had doubts about the use of the virtual field trips. He brought up the fact that virtual field trips should not replace real field trips. While I agree that schools should offer students the possibility to discover the real world, I believe that real field trips are more complicated to do because of many reasons (budget, distance, time). With that in mind, I don’t see why it has to be one or the other…why not use Google to show students things they could not see on a real field trip? Hangouts offers opportunities they wouldn’t normally have! With that said, I recommend you read his article, as he brings interesting points: http://betanews.com/2013/11/04/google-connected-classrooms-children-are-denied-proper-field-trips/

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