5 tips for using live video in the classroom

Let’s face it — we live in a very visually oriented society. Visual media is a great way to communicate, with a lot of positive applications in the classroom. Videos are attention-getters. One of the major benefits, in fact, is that everybody is familiar with video chat, thanks to smart phones and online media. It has fostered a new movement in education, led by organizations like The Global Classroom Project, to connect schools all around the globe.

New video technology is making the video chat option much more flexible and practical, too. A good mix of graphics, video chat, and interactions can deliver excellent educational values. This allows for far better discussion and communications opportunities.

Here are a few ways that you can use live video effectively in the classroom:

Expert guest speakers

A good selection of guest speakers for live video is another major asset. Experienced speakers are excellent presenters. They can bring a subject to life very easily, and handle questions very effectively.

Expect also to be astonished by the range of guest speakers it is possible to bring into your classroom. It may take a little planning, but if you approach potential guest speakers through parent organizations, like NASA, colleges or community-based organizations like the Museum of Tolerance, you can actually get world-class speakers.

For academic guest speakers, it’s a good idea to refer directly to their current college for help. The colleges will be able to assist directly with your needs, and are very helpful in arranging guest speakers.

Video Tours and Virtual Education

These options are among the very latest, and perhaps the most important of developments in education. Video tours allow classes to go around the world and cover a phenomenal range of subjects.

Next: Keeping in touch with parents and students


How early can we introduce STEM education?

Key points:

  • Researchers are developing a STEM curriculum intended for preschool students
  • Though evidence suggests early STEM exposure has benefits, little STEM instruction occurs in preschool classrooms
  • A grant enables six clusters of STEM lessons to be introduced to preschool children through play and other instructional methods

Although research suggests that students as young as preschool age would benefit from STEM education, experts point to a gap between what the research says and how much STEM-focused curriculum actually exists in preschools.

In an effort to address the national need to guide more students to STEM careers, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) researchers are developing curriculum which introduces STEM principles during the formative preschool years.

“Despite the evidence that introducing STEM during the pre-kindergarten years supports children’s cognitive development and positive attitudes toward learning and inquiry, there is very little STEM instruction in pre-kindergarten classrooms,”said Martha Cyr, principal investigator of Seeds of STEM: The Development of an Innovative Pre-Kindergarten STEM Curriculum; and executive director of The STEM Education Center at WPI. “Through this initiative we aim to increase STEM instruction practices in preschool classrooms, increase children’s exposure to STEM, and ultimately improve children’s curiosity, knowledge, and skills in STEM.”

Next page: How to combat the idea that STEM education is too challenging for preschool


Missouri schools get help preventing cyberbullying

The Missouri Research and Education Network (MOREnet) and Gaggle have announced that K-12 schools throughout Missouri are now eligible for a consortium discount on Gaggle Safety Management.

Gaggle Safety Management ensures the safety of students through early warning detection of cyberbullying, self-harm, drug or alcohol use, pornography and other harmful situations. By combining machine learning technology with expert Safety Representatives, schools and districts can create safe digital learning environments for communication, collaboration and learning.

“Through great partners like MOREnet, we’re able to get in front of school districts eager to be proactive in preventing cyberbullying and other potentially harmful situations as a result of using school-issued technology,” said Jeff Patterson, Gaggle’s CEO and founder. “I’m excited to extend our partnership for another year and continue to provide our services and great customer care to MOREnet members.”

The renewed partnership coincides with last month’s news of Governor Jay Nixon signing a new law that requires school districts to adopt a youth suicide and cyberbullying prevention policy. All policies must require school district employees to report any instances of bullying of which they have firsthand knowledge. School districts also must investigate a report of bullying within two days. They must also complete the investigation within ten days.

“We are pleased to be able to offer the latest safety management solutions at deep discounts to our consortium,” said Natasha Angell, director of member services at MOREnet. “With Gaggle Safety Management, our K-12 schools will have a proactive option to help deliver student safety solutions and protect against ongoing cyber threats.”

MOREnet and Gaggle also extended their agreement to provide K-12 schools, public libraries, higher education institutions and other government entities a consortium discount on Gaggle’s archiving product that integrates with leading enterprise email systems. The partnership, now in its fourth year, goes into effect for the 2016-17 school year.



App of the Week: Video and games to get students active

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated by the editors of Common Sense Education, which helps educators find the best ed-tech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly. Click here to read the full app review.


What’s It Like? GoNoodle is a series of web-based videos, games, and activities focused on introducing short bursts of physical exercise in the classroom. For young children who need to burn up energy to concentrate on learning, this is a simple solution. The site is meant to be used for physical activity in five- to 10-minute bursts, particularly during transition periods.

Price: Free/subscription

Grades: K-5

Pros: Videos and games are silly enough to get students’ moving, and the benefits of “brain breaks” are well documented.

Cons: This burst of exercise requires a steady internet connection; otherwise you’ll experience some choppy videos.

Bottom line: In a genre of its own, GoNoodle is a ready-to-go and classroom-friendly exercise program that challenges students to get moving.


Stretch student collaboration skills with Breakout EDU

There is a new platform for immersive learning games that’s taking classrooms across the world by storm. Based on the same principles as interactive Escape The Room digital games — which challenge players to use their surroundings to escape a prison-like scenario — Breakout EDU is a collaborative learning experience that enhances critical thinking and creativity while fostering a growth mindset in students.

There are two types of games available for teachers to run in their classrooms: the physical games (which are the main games) use the Breakout EDU box (or any box with a hasp that can be locked) with a set of locks, and the digital games which only need internet-connected devices.

Gameplay revolves around a Breakout EDU box that has been locked with multiple and different locks including directional locks, word locks, and number locks. After listening to a game scenario read by the teacher, students must work together to find and use clues to solve puzzles that reveal the various lock combinations before time expires (usually 45 minutes). Teachers can either purchase the Breakout EDU kit, which includes a plastic or wooden box and a set of locks, or the individual pieces of the kit can be ordered from Amazon directly. Either way, it takes about $100 to get started with the physical games; the digital games are free.

The physical games

These games require a Breakout EDU box and a set of locks which can be purchased as a kit or individually. At present there are 60 games available on the Breakout EDU website, and more are being added each week. Teachers can select games based on the age level of students, ideal group size, and content area. There is even a template for teachers to design their own games which can be submitted for inclusion on the site.

breakout eduInstructions from the Breakout EDU website

Most games can be set up in under 15 minutes before students enter the classroom. Each game includes physical and digital clues which help students solve puzzles to obtain the combinations to the assorted locks. All of these are included on the Breakout EDU game page where they can be downloaded and printed out. Additionally, overview videos are included to assist teachers with game preparation.

Game titles include:

  • Dr. Johnson’s Lab (Zombie Apocalypse)
  • Attack of the Locks (Star Wars themed)
  • The Candy Caper
  • The Mighty Pen
  • Teamwork

As they play these fast-paced games, students work collaboratively to find clues while using critical thinking skills and deductive reasoning to solve puzzles that reveal the lock combinations before time expires (a link to a Breakout EDU timer is included).

Next page: The digital games


The Friday 4: Your weekly ed-tech rewind

Every Friday, I’ll recap some of the most interesting and thought-provoking news developments that occurred over the week.

I can’t fit all of this week’s news stories here, though, so feel free to browse eSchool News and read up on other news you may have missed.

This week, it’s all about what’s up in K-12 education technology–trends, facts about social media, classroom technology tool developments, supporting critical thinking, and more.

Read on for more:

14 surprising facts about educators’ social media use
Social media has fast become an educator’s dream, with almost immediate responses to questions about teaching strategies, resources, and professional development opportunities. But how are educators really using social media, and is it really as widely-used as everyone assumes?

Chromebooks are on the rise, but Windows reliance remains
Sixty-two percent of K-12 schools participating in a recent survey support Chromebook initiatives, and 22 percent of those schools use Chromebooks as a primary classroom device.

How augmented reality enhances the classroom — even without technology
Several years ago, I made one of those foolish Dad choices. Despite my wife’s better judgment, I let my six- and seven-year-old sons watch Men in Black. What I thought would be a cool evening of fighting aliens turned into one of those nights ending with two kids afraid of going to sleep under a wife’s “I told you so” glare.

Encourage critical thinking by turning your class into a Socratic Seminar
With so much talk about the Common Core standards and truly increasing our student’s argumentative powers and critical thinking skills, some teachers are starting to think critically themselves about how best to engage students in thoughtful debate and discussion around texts they need to analyze anyway.


Encourage critical thinking by turning your class into a Socratic Seminar

With so much talk about the Common Core standards and truly increasing our student’s argumentative powers and critical thinking skills, some teachers are starting to think critically themselves about how best to engage students in thoughtful debate and discussion around texts they need to analyze anyway.

One method, called the Socratic seminar, challenges to students to formal discussions about a text based on open-ended questions. Throughout the exercise, students must alternately employ good listening, critical thinking, creativity, and rhetorical prowess.

The Socratic style of discourse lends itself quite well to establishing critical thinkers due to the fact that Socrates believed that enabling students to think for themselves was more important than filling their heads with knowledge. Even if you’re new to the concept, it’s easy to get started.

Select a text

To start, consider engaging the class in a guided reading of a novel with compelling themes and issues. Bullying, environmental issues, poverty, courage, scarcity and challenges are all good topics that elicit great conversation. Throughout the course of the week, students read assigned sections of a class novel and discuss story events and critical vocabulary associated with the readings.

The questions

Provide students with a Prep Sheet to elicit thought-provoking and questions. Students should be able to summarize the assigned section of the text, identify compelling quotes or statements from the reading, and attempt to create application and synthesis style questions that focus on things like the critical elements, difficult choices made by characters, and sometimes controversial themes running through their novel.

The set up

Arrange your classroom in a format that encourages discourse. A double horseshoe configuration works well with a small group of students to be the inner circle. The inner circle students will be slated to be the ones discussing and interacting. The outer circle of students will be slated to observe and reflect and provide a backchannel.

The discourse

Relinquishing control can be difficult! Once the seminar begins, discipline yourself not to guide or facilitate the conversation. Let it evolve organically. It can be awkward initially. When students realize it is their stage, they begin conversing, sharing, and engage each other in a truly critical level of analysis of a text that they’ve read in a deep and meaningful way.


Once great technique to engage the outer circle is to try a backchannel technique. The website Todaysmeet.com offers a live feed of comments and questions that the outer circle of students can collaboratively create to extend the conversations and give them a voice in the process. Through Todaysmeet, students can post thoughts, questions, feedback comments, and even prompts to assist the inner circle.


After the discussion, an assessment piece is essential.  Students can write a paragraph indicating what they learned.  It allows them to reflect on the experience and reflect on their own comprehension and understanding of the critical issues that may have been brought up with respect to the themes in the novel.  This reflection can also afford students another opportunity to share events that relate deeply to the characters, the character’s choices and experiences.  They can also extrapolate character traits and applied them to new situations.

Enabling students through a Socratic Seminar is a powerful way to build critical, active thinkers that are engaged and involved in your classroom!