By CUE Member and Guest Blogger Scott Bedley
Each year it becomes a fun challenge to figure out ways to engage my students and connect them with authentic audiences. There are many technology-based activities such as Mystery Skypes, virtual field trips, BYOD, we’ve used. Lately, I’ve started to broadcast my students in events via Google Hangouts. One such event I’ve held with my students for the past six years called “The Dead Explorers Press Conference.”
This Common Core Standards-Based project is built on a foundation of research, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity (I add a fifth “C” in competition) with students taking on differentiated roles. One of the most powerful aspects has been adding the use of Google Hangouts. Through this Google Hangouts addition, my students have the chance to show a global audience all they’ve learned about explorers. In a “typical press conference” style activity students become press members in the audience while other students become explorers up in front of the crowd. I decided to broadcast the event live so I could provide my students with an authentic audience by inviting other classrooms to watch and learn. Several classrooms have joined us to observe locally here in Southern California and also across the country in North Carolina and other places in-between.
Let me paint a more detailed picture. Eight to ten students (of my 35) take on the roles of being explorers. They work to keep their “explorer identity” secret from the other students. Those not taking on the role of explorer take on the role of reporters and team up to start their investigation. Their job, as reporters, is to first research and understand all the key explorers that we have previously focused on. They organize the information to create questions. I take time to teach my student reporters about the different types questions that fall into Bloom’s Taxonomy ranging from simple to complex. (Confession – Many tend to still use yes or no questions when the press conference begins, but it’s all a process of learning) As the students research background information to become reporters they build their bank of questions. Meanwhile, the other students are researching in depth to “become” one individual explorer. Reporters… Explorers… it sounds a bit crazy, but it’s incredibly motivating and exciting for the kids.
After four one-hour sessions of research, information gathering, and preparation, the students are ready for their press conference. The goal for the reporters is to use their research and questions to solve who the Mystery Explorers are.
Student reporters choose news outlets to represent from such as Yahoo News, NY Times, and even local TV news channels. The broadcast begins. Reporters shout out and try to be recognized in order to ask their question(s). The kids love this… Their teacher requiring them to shout out… Awesome! The live broadcast increases the energy, desire to succeed, and overall performance of the students. The kids know other students are watching and this creation of an authentic audience adds excitement, accountability, as well as motivation for students to produce high quality products and accurate information. The results of their learning are demonstrated in the writing project that comes after the event.
After a series of questions, reporters must write an article identifying who they believe each of the 8-10 “Mystery Explorers” are by providing evidence from their research that matched the answers given by each explorer to the questions in the press conference.
While reporters write their articles via Google docs, my student “explorers” write an in-depth reflection piece on their individual explorer along with a comparison to the other European Explorers. They tell why their explorer deserved his/her acknowledgment they have received in history. Although my press conference is focused on the Age of Exploration, it’s a lesson frame that is easily adaptable to all types of content.
How to Start One of Your Own:
To start broadcasting your class you can take the same steps I took or find an even faster way. First, and most importantly, be sure your students have waivers/parent permission to take part in such an online event. I had also already previously created my YouTube Channel, Gmail and Google Plus Accounts, all important. You’ll need a webcam and external mic to best capture the content. Using Google Hangouts, I started my broadcast, but we were not live broadcasting yet. Starting the hangout gave me my link to share. Once I had a link for my Hangout On-Air I shared that link via our class website, Twitter and Edmodo. I then just clicked “broadcast” and we were live! Just imagine the positive impact your class can have on the world!
It’s been impressive to see the students during their press conference. They not only step up to the challenge, but they exceed my expectations. Although I’ve only touched on a few aspects, the depth of learning this project provides is far beyond any lecture or history book unit and the addition of an authentic audience through live broadcasting the event only increases the quality of work. Check out this year’s conference!
Scott Bedley is in his 20th year in teaching, having taught 3-6 grades and high school. He currently teaches 5th grade in Irvine USD. He was recently honored with OC Tech Alliance STEM High Impact Teacher Award for his innovations and integration of technology into his classroom and district and is OCCUE’s 2014 Outstanding Teacher. He is a co-host of the #Edutaining Bedley Brothers EdChat Show on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. Connect with Scott via @scottbedley, @tasfair, @bedleybros or www.scottbedley.com