Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hanging Out With Teachers Might Be Cool

In the past few weeks I have been in Google Plus Hangouts with a few more TV news anchors, social media experts, researchers from a variety of networks, and a whole bunch of entertainment personalities.

I will appear as a guest in the video of Frank Girard's round-table discussion on the monetization of this new technology. Rama Sharma included me in the video she produced for the BBC discussing its potential impact on broadcast journalism. I will be working with another  colleague to explore using GPHO as a vehicle for conducting market research panels. I've been interviewed by others and have obviously written a number of columns about it.

But no session has been more rewarding than a brief conversation with the students and officials from a small but prestigious high school in New Jersey.  My good friend Frank Garufi Jr. invited me to join a hangout he started from a conference room at  St. Augustine's Prep High School. Here we were able to very quickly pique the imagination of a handful of students scheduled to participate in a hangout with another school. According to Kevin Motylinski, one of the students:  

January 27, 2012 St. Augustine Prep, New Jersey, will have a video chat with the sister school Villanova College, Ontario Canada, to gain new ideas to bring to the schools. The students representing Villanova College are Nadia See, Melissa Martino, Sandra Bianco, Breanna Bitondo, Dana Umbrio, Dave Monaco, Owen Wright, and Morgan Sutherland. Representing St. Augustine Prep is BoDean Messier, Kyle Brandt, Kevin Motylinski, Sam Swisher, Michael Grandrimo, and Austin Campbell. The group has already been acquainted through the Student Augustine Values Institute, held in Tulsa, OK, and have developed great ideas from each other. The original idea of video chats born there and we hope that one day we could have all 8 Augustinian High School in North America to participate with these chats, and possible go global with all the Augustine schools around the world. The reason for this video chat is to explore the use of google+ as a learning tool in the future for schools, as well as to see what ideas have worked and develop new ideas.

Likely  to be the first of many hangouts, these students got a few pointers from us veterans. They are now better prepared and will be able to gain the most from the experience, focusing on the content and information exchange, and not just the technology. As we took them through the basic features, it was a delight to watch as their minds began to expand before our very eyes. They will use this technology in ways we can't even imagine.

Even more personally exciting was the opportunity to speak with  Mr. George Smith, Director of Communications for the school.  Beyond the use for intramural communications, we discussed several other very innovative uses. 

For example, my colleague Robert Redl from Vienna Austria also participated in this hangout. Tomorrow, he is going to "visit" with a German language class offering everyone in the classroom the opportunity to interact directly with him.

Some of my hangout buddies and I had just been treated to an impromptu tour of Rome Italy through a hangout and we could imagine orchestrating a hangout like this for world studies or political science. Reading about Marcus Aurelius? Let's have someone show us the obelisk dedicated in his honor. Perhaps journalism students would like to hangout on the set of a live news broadcast to observe first hand what happens in the studio off camera.

This is a whole new dimension to the concept of an organized field trip. But it won't always be someone out there in the world coming into the school via a hangout. It could just as easily go the other way.

Imaging a single tutor from the school or home being able to "visit" with five or six other students each in their homes, whether due to illness or inclement weather. The students could have a rich interaction with each other and the tutor staying current or getting some extra help in certain subjects. It would be like a true virtual classroom and maximize the use of the tutor's time.

We all agreed the possibilities are limitless. I applaud Frank, George and Fr. Donald Reilly, President of the school, for being so progressive and forward thinking. It started me thinking perhaps I should set aside this broadcast news journey I've undertaken, step out from under the TV studio lights and get back into the classroom. 

Captain Joe

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