Expanding the Classroom Walls: Google Hangouts

All school year I have been wanting to set up a Google Hangout with any one of my classes, and with the encouragement and slight nudge from an amazing colleague (ahem Ann Feldmann), I was finally able to get one set up. Even though it was the second to last week in the school year, it was still a valuable and incredible experience for my students and myself. Through the extraordinary work of Ann Feldmann and the Google Hangouts for Education Google + Community, I was able to meet Nicole Shema and her wonderful students from the Passaic County Technical Institute in Wayne, NJ.

Over the course of a few weeks, Nicole and I were able to converse over email to settle on a topic to discuss and logistics of how this thing will work. (Side note: because NJ is one hour ahead, her students actually stayed after school!) Both of us being newbies, we weren’t really sure what to expect. After speaking with our respective classes about what we wanted to accomplish with the hangout, we settled on a simple get-to-know-you format where we lobbed questions back and forth. Previously, each class used Google Docs to generate questions for the other classroom. My students used the remaining iPads (the ones not being used by my iPad Academy students) and did some research on Mrs. Shema’s school and community. Based on the information they gathered, they asked a series of questions, most of them mainly about the lives of the students (interests, classes, level of stress at school, etc.) and a few included their conceptualizations of the American Dream. Based on what we discussed, both classes had mentioned fame as being an American Dream, but not their own, which Nicole and I thought was interesting.

After all was said and done, my students really liked meeting with a class outside of their community. They were surprised at how similar the other students were to us, and that they didn’t have discernable accents. Nicole and I plan on doing this more regularly throughout the next school year. I am looking forward to many more class meetings in the future! I would encourage anyone who is looking to expand their classroom walls to check out Google Hangouts for Education.

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