abstracted from “Linking Students with Online Experts” Bigchalk’s Tech Tips Newsletter, October 2002

Students today have at their disposal a number of tools for education-related research. Whether they go online and surf the net, consult live videoconferences, raid the media center for computerized reference materials, or simply raise their hands to ask a teacher, there are a number of ways for them to get answers to their questions. But perhaps none of these resources are as effective as firsthand answers from experts in the field. The author of this instructional article lays out a hands-on plan for creating an “Ask the Experts” tool that students can use to pose questions for professionals in real-life situations.

First, you must develop a preliminary plan. Here are some questions to consider:

• How might communicating with an outside expert enhance students’ understanding of a given unit?

• Are the questions complicated? Would they be best answered by an expert?

• Can the unit wait for a response from the expert? Or, must questions be addressed immediately?

• Does the unit require student work that could be reviewed and critiqued by the expert, should he or she accept the invitation?

• Would communicating with professionals add to the overall value of classroom time dedicated to the unit? Once your plan is set, it’s time to find an expert.

• Consult the internet to find qualified candidates. Also, turn to experts who live in or around the local community. These people might be inclined to visit the class in person.

• Review the candidates’ work, qualifications, and areas of interest. Make sure you pick the right person to address the right questions.

After narrowing down the list of candidates, make introductions.

• Communicate with potential experts via phone or eMail and introduce them to yourself, your class, and the unit for which you are seeking their expertise.

• Ask them about the types of questions they would be willing to answer. And, if the experts will be communicating online, ask how long it would take them to respond.

• Provide some time. The author suggests giving the candidate a full week to respond to the invitation. If not, start the process over. Once an expert is selected and an invitation accepted, it’s time to prepare the class.

• Involve the students in planning. What do they know about the expert’s profession? The author suggests having students choose at least 10 questions that could be answered online, over the phone, or—perhaps—even in person. • Assign the questions a level of importance, as voted on by the class, and come to an agreement about how many questions should be answered during a certain period of time. After picking the questions, it’s time to send them to your expert.

• The author suggests composing an eMail message reintroducing yourself, your class, and the unit. Then, as part of the same message, attach the questions.

• Make sure to ask for a reply so that the expert notifies you that he or she has received the questions.

• Consider devoting students to checking eMail daily for the responses. This will add to the anticipation, the author said.

Finally, when the responses are received, be sure to thank the expert who helped make the unit a success.

About the Author:

eSchool News