Guest post from BigMarker, a free online tool for online teaching
Education is constantly changing. Technological innovations will increasingly allow us to break down the walls of the classroom to connect students with teachers, guest speakers, and professionals around the world. Virtual field trips are becoming more common, and in some classrooms, physical textbooks are a thing of the past. We are truly living in exponential times, and today’s teachers and students are fortunate to be at the forefront of our era’s technology revolution. BigMarker is a place where people come together to learn, share, and collaborate in live web conferences, and keep the conversation going between meetings in online communities. From the many communities using BigMarker for educational purposes, we have learned quite a bit. In this blog, we will consider 9 ways that educators can use BigMarker.
1. Professional Development
One of the most visible educational communities on BigMarker is Global Math Department. With over 700 members in over 30 countries, the community is based on professional development amongst friends to improve math education for students everywhere. The community believes that no matter how experienced a teacher is, there is always going to be someone who has a different technique or perspective. Professional development through video conferencing allows educators to connect on a global scale to share thoughts and ideas. This admirable desire reaffirms the dedication that educators have as they are constantly striving to better themselves.
2. Streaming Classes Online
Streaming classes is a powerful teaching method. Most schools could benefit from having a distant learning option to reach students when they can’t make it to campus. During some of the worst floods that Southeast Asia has ever seen, high school teachers in Bangkok used BigMarker to stream classes, allowing students who fled the country to as far away as Japan and Korea to attend virtually. Despite schools not reopening for a matter of months due to the damage done to buildings, class was back in session within a matter of weeks.
3. Connecting Classrooms Virtually
By scheduling a video conference, teachers in separate buildings, schools, and even countries can connect their classrooms. Students can participate in case studies, debates, group discussions, and interviews, building relationships with peers in other locations.
4. Streaming Guest Speakers into the Classroom
By hosting a special speaker day, teachers can rejuvenate their students and provide international perspective on subject matter. Inviting an expert or author into the classroom through a videoconference can add a new layer to the lesson plan, adding another dimension and level of credibility. Video conferencing gives students access to learning experiences that previous generations could only attain through physical field trips. One school that has mastered streaming content into the classroom is the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio. Recently, COSI showed a live knee replacement surgery to a science class. Other notable examples include connecting political science classes to government leaders in Washington and even connecting students to the international space station.
5. Day-long Seminars
Get Read is a community established for author and writer collaboration. Recently, it hosted a day-long event divided into various seminars. Each discussion focused on a different area and members had the power to choose which areas they wished to attend. Opting for an event like this provides a low-cost way to host an educational convention, where teachers from all over can organize a day of collaboration and where multiple topics can be addressed through separate discussions.
Many educators use BigMarker for tutoring purposes. Kendall College, for example, has subcategorized their classes into separate online learning communities, each of which provide extra help, office hours, and study sessions for students. From business to culinary arts, there are many forums for students to receive the extra support they need.
7. Online Classes
DoctoralNet hosts a weekly class for students on their path to earning a PhD, helping with research, writing dissertations, and staying sane while doing it. Outside of their virtual classes, students and instructors can access recordings of past sessions, tapping into the institutional memory of the community. They remain constantly connected through threaded discussions, while sharing files and resources that everyone can benefit from. The door is always open for Q&A and individual support as well, through private messaging with the instructor team. Finally, by collecting membership dues to their community, DoctoralNet has been able to earn revenue. The combination of these tools and activities results in a community of well-equipped PhD students; DoctoralNet has helped 150 new PhDs successfully graduate so far.
8. Staff Meetings
Staff meetings are an ever-present aspect of education. BigMarker helps schools, departments within schools, and teams virtualize meetings so it is no longer necessary to sit through 30 minutes of traffic just to drive across town for a one-hour meeting. Meeting participants can listen to the meeting and participate using their computer’s microphone and webcam. Everyone can view the same file, presentation, or the presenter’s desktop. And attendees can use a chat feature to ask questions without interrupting the flow of the conversation. Educators from Michigan State University, Boise State, Kendall College, and Northwestern University have used BigMarker to cut travel expenses and make meeting face-to-face easier, no matter where people are.
9. Study Groups
Not only is BIgMarker useful for educators to provide extra support for their students, it is also a handy place for students to get together and share thoughts amongst themselves. BigMarker provides study groups an online space for learning, sharing, and collaboration, making it extremely convenient for group members to participate from school, home, or on the go. Groups that can’t secure a study room at the library now have a place to meet, and if a member can’t attend, they have the option to view the recording so they don’t miss out. Finally, the materials from a study group can be archived so future students can benefit from the lessons learned by those who came before them.
10. Alumni Networks
It can be difficult to stay connected to alumni as people move, take on new responsibilities, and start families. In person events can be difficult to organize and get to as we’re increasingly time-constrained. One community that has overcome this hurdle is the Stanford Military Service Network, which is organizing a vibrant alumni network that is social, productive, and accessible to alumni around the world, without commuting.
In the past three years of building BigMarker, we’ve partnered with, listened to, and learned from thousands of educators around the globe — from pre-K teachers, to college professors. We’ve found that rapidly-evolving technology creates a number of challenges. For example, how can we limit the distractions that the always-connected generation of students is facing? How can we productively make use of smart devices to enhance learning? How can we use connectivity to enrich lessons with the perspectives of others far away? BigMarker views these challenges as opportunities, and is aggressively building new ways for students and teachers to achieve their goals by being better connected. For more information or to come chat with us, visit BigMarker.com.
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