By Jen Schneider
The last two years have taught us that we have to utilize technology in new ways. One of the most important tech takeaways of this time is the ability to connect to others when we can’t always connect in person. Of course, that means reaching out to relatives and friends we haven’t been able to see because of the pandemic, but it also opens up opportunities in terms of educational connections.
There are so many ways to connect with experts online to help our students learn more about real-world occupations and connections to curriculum. The good news is that you don’t have to spend hours seeking out a botanist or author to speak to your class. Check out the resources to help you find experts online.
Sign up to be matched with a scientist that connects with your curriculum or students’ interests. Don’t worry! You don’t have to have Skype. Most scientists are ready and waiting with their Zoom link. Simply fill out a request form with your availability (generally) and type of scientist. You may also request scientists from “historically excluded” groups including scientists of different races and ethnicities, women, LGBT, and first generation scientists. In addition, scientists can be requested in more than 13 different languages, including American Sign Language.
I requested a paleontologist, and my students were matched in less than a week. We “met” on Zoom for about an hour. Make sure your students prepare questions ahead of time as this is not a formal presentation but a Q&A. Our scientist was engaging and answered all my students’ questions.
I’ve had a lot of luck finding virtual curriculum connections and career speakers on LinkedIn. This helps if you already have a presence on the site and connections built. I prefer not to reach out to anyone unless we have a mutual connection that can introduce us. This is also important because you’ll want to vet any speakers you have in your class (even virtually) ahead of time.
LinkedIn has helped me find Emmy Award winning news reporters and producers, FBI agents, animal experts, and more.
Author Kate Messner put a list of resources and authors who read their stories and books aloud to students online. She also has an archive of authors willing to meet virtually for students for free. Reaching out to your students’ favorite authors on Twitter can also help! Your students don’t need to be on social media. In fact, just start tweeting their comments and questions to their favorite authors. My students are so excited when they hear back!
If the pandemic has brought any positives, one is opening up more ways of connecting with experts around the world. Bringing scientists, authors, and other professionals on camera to dialogue with our students has been so beneficial for my learners. I hope you’ll try it with yours!