Beyond the Walls Globe (1)

Educators are using web-based communication programs to bring experts into the classroom, collaborate with other classrooms across the globe, connect with guest readers, and to reach learners in a virtual environment for instruction or support. This Thing will demonstrate some of the digital resources available to improve communication today. We will be focusing on the use of free chat services on the web and Skype to communicate with students, authors, scientists, other classrooms, and community experts. 

Communicating in the 21st Century

Collaborating, communicating, and learning is accessible 24 hours a day and 7 days a week (24/7) around the world. Educators and classrooms can reach beyond physical boundaries to communicate and share through the use of a variety of FREE tools. These generally fall into two categories: asynchronous (does not need to be communicating at the same moment in time), and synchronous (live, at the same time, at a distance). This short video compares and contrasts synchronous and asynchronous forms of communication online.





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Backchannel chats allow students to network in real-time with others online. Consider these 10 reasons why you should try a backchannel chat. Since you control the chat room availability this is a good place to practice digital etiquette online. There is no software installation needed, and these are FREE and easy to use. Backchats are easily saved or printed for later reference as well. Here is a more recent article on using backchannels for blended learning. (June 2018- Several of the resources are no longer available, but the tips for using them are still very relevant.)

Google Hangouts




Google Hangouts are an easy way to connect with students or colleagues. Think about sharing with students who are out sick or missed class due to other obligations, reviewing procedures with colleagues the night before a field trip, or using it for a small study group. You can have either a text chat or a video call hangout. You are limited to 10 participants in a video call and 100 in a chat. To learn how to use Google Hangouts, visit the Google support page





Skype is an online service which uses VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). To create a free Skype account and learn more, visit the Skype support page. Teachers have been using Skype in their classrooms since 2006 in innovative ways to video conference, connect and communicate with other classrooms. PLEASE NOTE: SKYPE must be downloaded to your machine in order to use it. System requirements can be found on this page.

Schools that sign up for Office 365 for Education are able to access an enhanced version of Skype that allows you to have up to 1000 users on a single session. You can share content for all to see, draw on a whiteboard, record conversations, create polls and Q&A sessions. Imagine running a class on a snow day or for students unable to attend class due to an illness!




Twitter, Google Plus and Linkedin


There are numerous educators on Twitter that are connecting, communicating and learning from one another. They are building some global relationships that will be invaluable to the future of their own professional development as well as their schools.

Twitter has made a bigger impact on professional learning than any professional development opportunity in recent years. The learning is real, the ideas are powerful yet simple, and the connections to resources and people are infinite.

Google Plus  Google plus

Your Google account also brings many new ways to communicate as well.  When you are logged into your personal Google account, you may have seen your name in the right hand corner.  If you click that link you will be taken to your Plus page, where you can join circles to connect with other educators.

Linkedin   linkedin

LinkedIn is a social networking site designed for professionals to connect and communicate with each other to share information, professional conversations, and assist with job searches. Unlike other social networking sites, LinkedIn focuses on career exploration and growth. Many educators use LinkedIn to connect with other friends, educators, and people they know in the business world.

Check out additional resources for Communication

Learning Objectives

After completing this Thing, the educator will:

  • Know the difference between asynchronous and synchronous communication tools

  • Understand the use of different online communication resources, including those that allow for virtual meetings or back channel chats

  • Make connections with technology standards and best practice

  • Transfer the learning to professional practice to use online communication tools to improve instructional practice



21 Things Assignment:

1. Click here to choose your assignment for Skype, Backchannel chat, Google Hangouts, or TWICE and CAPspace.

2. Join Twitter, Google Plus or Linkedin. Participate in a tweet chat or communicate in a discussion on Google Plus or Linkedin. Write a reflection which includes: which resource you chose, which chat or discussion you participated in and how these can build your network and knowledge of various subjects. 

3. Take the very short survey giving feedback on this Thing. 


Addressing the ISTE Standards For Educators

1a. Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.
1b. Pursue professional interests by creating and actively participating in local and global learning networks.

2a. Shape, advance and accelerate a shared vision for empowered learning with technology by engaging with education stakeholders.
2b. Advocate for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students.
2c. Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, 
evaluation, curation and adoption of 
new digital resources and tools for learning.

3a. Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community.
3c. Mentor students in safe, legal and ethical practices with digital tools and the protection of intellectual rights and property.
3d. Model and promote management of personal data and digital identity and protect student data privacy.

4a. Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology.
4b. Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources anddiagnose and troubleshoot technology issues.
4c. Use collaborative tools to expand students' authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams and students, locally and globally.
4d. Demonstrate cultural competency when communicating with students, parents and colleagues and interact with them as co-collaborators in student learning.

5a. Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.
5b. Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.

6a. Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.
6b. Manage the use of technology and student learning strategies in digital platforms, virtual environments, hands-on makerspaces or in the field.
6d. Model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections.


Video conferencing can be used to support these strategies:

1. Reinforcing Effort/Providing Recognition;
2. Cooperative Learning;
3. Non-linguistic Representations
4. Assigning Homework & Practice
5. Identifying Similarities and Differences
6. Generating and Testing Hypotheses

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