Having a guest speaker is a fantastic way to open up your unit. Students get to hear from someone besides you and your guest is probably an expert in the field. However, it is hard to get someone to come to school but it’s easier to get someone to appear virtually via video conferencing for 10-20 minutes from the comfort of their own home or office.
Video conferencing for unit openers probably sounds complicated and probably sounds like something you cannot do easily from your classroom.
WRONG! It’s so easy.
If you have a Mac bought in the last three years you’ve probably got all you need already and if you have a PC you don’t need much.
At the very least you need a computer and a video camera (iMacs have the camera built in).
Different school districts block the use of different kinds of software. I would try iChat, Skype, or AOL instant messenger in that order. iChat is the only one that is Mac only but it interfaces with AOL if your guest has a PC.
That’s really it. Arrange with someone else anywhere in the world to talk to your class by finding their web site and shooting them an e-mail and you’re in business.
As a followup you can also network with other classrooms later in the unit for students from different classes to share what they have learned about the unit.
By bringing outsiders into your classroom, even if your guests arrive virtually, you give your unit a real-life relevance that it doesn’t have if it only relates to the four walls of your classroom.
Remember, you can post questions as comments below.