Virtual Guest Speakers


Imagine if you could bring a guest speaker into your classroom to discuss what your students are learning about… not just someone from the local community, but a luminary, a legend, a world class expert!  Would someone like that be prepared to give up 10 minutes of their time to talk to your class?  I decided to find out.

An Idea that occurred to me when i was at the Innovative Teachers Conference in Hanoi, in April… was that it is now theoretically possible to bring anyone into the classroom using skype or other, similar, freely available ICTs.  The mind boggles.  In the past it was such a rare treat to get a guest speaker into a classroom to discuss something that the class was studying.  But that guest speaker was usually a parent, or someone from a local interest group (nothing wrong with that).  But I would never have even dreamed of asking someone like Professor Peter Doherty – the Nobel Prize Winning immunologist come to speak to my class.  But what if i could talk to him on skype, and have him talk to my class that way?  Video conferencing has been around for years, but it was costly, clunky, and unreliable.  But skype is free, simple to use, reliable and just works.  So I did it!  I called him up for an interview.  He was only too happy to share his thoughts with my students.  I asked him questions… some were mine, some were from students.  Ohh it was great – and he was pleased to be part of it.

Imagine the possibilities of this!  An English teacher could invite the very AUTHOR of the novel they are studying into the virtual classroom.  A media class could have a chat with Steven Spielberg!  A PE class could talk to Tiger Woods.  A music class could talk to … well there are so many to choose from – but not just someone from the local church choir! Paul McCartney!  Madonna!  It would take 5 minutes of these people’s time, but what an opportunity for students to engage with the world! My mind races… Would Barak Obama talk to a politics class?  

One of the things I always ask myself when i am looking at adopting a teaching tool or pursuing an idea, is “will my investment of time and effort result in me being able to do something that I can’t do as effectively, any other way?”  This can.  This lets a teacher bring bring the absolute best of the best, as guest speakers into a classroom – no matter where they live in the world.  Now come on… you have to admit your mind is welling up with possibilities too… It is, isn’t it?


1 thought on “Virtual Guest Speakers

  1. Andrew, this is such exciting stuff! Am very much looking forward to hearing the Professor Peter Doherty Podcast and taking it to our staff here and saying, “This is what’s possible!”
    I have already had a number of staff come to me keen to explore the Video Conferencing avenue with exactly the same ideas – to bring in “special guests”. Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to setup something due to technical issues and because we need to trial applications such as Skype to see how they will run in our school environment.
    Virtual Guest Speakers and Video Conferencing has enormous potential and we should be getting on board with this!
    Andrew, it would be great for someone like you to show other teachers what is possible and how you have achieved this. I know I’d be sitting in the front row!

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