Active Audience with Google Hangouts

Video conferencing can bring the world into your classroom, but how do you ensure all learners are active participants? We have seen many teachers using backchannels, a host of mindmapping and note taking strategies some collaborative and some independent, but the next idea really makes me stop and celebrate.

It started with Sara Wickham organizing and setting up a Google Hangout for Liberty High School teachers with Matthew Barksdale, President of Engage Mobile discussing the skills students need to be successful in the world of business. Whereas Matthew is ever engaging and the session rocked, it was the format that will be increasingly interesting for teachers.

Right before the Hangout, Sara shared a Google Document and asked all participants to take a role during the video chat:

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 7.22.52 PM

Then participants were asked to engage in the conversation with Matthew and take notes based on their role. As a participant I found this to be an interesting way to funnel the information through different lenses. Most of the time when in Hangouts and on backchannels Barksdaleyou end up with many ‘scribes’ and a lot of great recaps of what is said. When you ask participants to take on individual roles, you begin considering information from very different perspectives.

Upon reflection, I would love to see groups use this process as a jigsaw where 1 or 2 students out of each group are in the Hangout. When Hangouts are smaller, it is easier to stay engaged and when it is your responsibility to take the learning back to the entire group, you listen and participate at a much higher level. By giving students multiple entry points into their learning with a responsibility to contribute to a larger conversation, we typically see deeper conversations and applications of newly found knowledge.

Matthew talked about the importance of teamwork and strong communication skills, both verbal and written. He also talked about how important GRIT is for individuals who will certainly find some level of failure within their lives. Matthew said, “If you can’t communicate your ideas, you are in trouble”. Let’s give students more opportunities to practice these skills so that they are well-prepared for their future in whatever field they choose.

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