Global pen pals have long existed as a classroom tool for building cultural awareness and writing skills among students. Times have changed, though, and now there’s a better way: international video chat.
International video chat has significantly lowered the barriers to cross-cultural exchange in the classroom. Connecting with students or adults in another part of the world once was a slow and time-consuming process, but the Internet has created a global community and made international conversations as easy interstate communications.
There are many ways that school systems can take advantage of this trend for enhanced learning experiences. If you are a teacher or school administrator, here are five ways that you can use international video chat in the classroom.
Ways to Use International Video Chat
#1: Language Learning
Most language teachers would agree that one of the best ways that students can learn a new language is by speaking with someone who already knows it well. International group video chat can significantly augment classroom language learning by connecting classrooms with locals who are interested in sharing their language with others. This can take the form of in-class group video chat with locals who speak the language, or as learning aid after class much like a tutor.
Video chat can be used either for connecting students with their counterparts in another part of the world, prompting casual language exchange and tutoring, or schools can engage with global organizations that find locals looking to supplement their income through tutoring. Costs usually are low due to the volume of people willing to teach their mother tongue over the Internet.
#2: Cultural Exchange
The value of international video chat for broadening the cultural horizons of students is almost unmatched. Teachers can use international video chat for creating cultural exchange and understanding by connecting their classroom with a partner classroom elsewhere on the globe.
“The new understanding I came to about the world was that everything isn’t the same as their world,” noted a Yu’pik student in Alaska recently who took place in an international cultural exchange with a school in Mexico, according to Global Classroom Project.
It is one thing when cultural practices are mentioned in a classroom setting, and another thing entirely when students can hear about cultural practices directly and engage with people who are living these practices. International video chat enables such rich, engaging cultural interaction.
Projects such as the Digital Opportunity Trust help schools connect with students in other parts of the world for cultural exchanges opportunities.
#3: Foreign Experts
Bringing guest speakers into the classroom can be rewarding, as teachers know. The problem is scheduling these guest speakers; pulling meaningful guests into the classroom during school hours is a logistical challenge.
International video chat both solves this scheduling issue and increases the range of guests that a classroom can invite. While it may be hard to bring guests into the classroom if they have to physically visit a school, video chat technology such as Agora.io’s browser-based real time communications make it as simple as setting a time and having the speaker click on a link to initiate a virtual visit to the classroom.
By using video chat, classrooms also can connect with experts around the world and not just those in their community, greatly expanding the scope of who they can invite.
#4: International Project Collaboration
With international video chat, teachers can also spice up their classroom projects.
One such example is Know My World’s Journal Swap for Peace. The initiative creates cultural awareness, empathy among peers and promotes communication and literacy by connecting students from across the world in a journal writing project where learners swap journals with someone elsewhere in the world.
“Through the exploration and documentation of our individual occurrences and then the sharing/swapping of these journals, students understand ways in which their lives compare and contrast to peers in other countries,” noted Know My World.
Another example is art exchange. Schools can create cross-cultural art exhibits among students in different parts of the world through the use of international video chat and screen-sharing technology.
#5: Sharing Advice with Fellow Teachers
Students are not the only ones who can benefit from cross-cultural exchange—teachers can grow, too!
International video chat can help support innovative teaching by allowing schools to connect with each other and share ideas and teaching methods. There are many ways that schools can help students learn, and connecting teachers who are working in vastly different parts of the world can introduce new ideas that can be applied in the classroom.
So when thinking about how your classroom can use video chat, don’t forget that teachers also can use it for learning.