Sunday, August 25, 2013

Build Partnerships with Experts for Real World Connections

With the Common Core Standards and with Project Based Learning, one truth remains constant for both – making real world connections for our students.  You know the question, “When am I ever going to use this?”  Well, now we are showing the students the answer with every unit and project we cover. In other words, we are making content relevant for our students.  And yes, it’s awesome!

One avenue to consider is having your students interview experts.  Let the people who infuse your content area on a daily basis answer your student curiosities, and with that you just might find yourself learning a couple of new tidbits along the way. 

I’ve created an infographic to help your wheels get turning with possibilities for partnerships, but here’s a few words of advice:

  • Have students generate questions before making contact with an expert or organization.  Let the students’ curiosities fuel the research, and you’ll discover they have more buy in and passion to find an answer.
  • Revise the questions so they are focused, concise, and not easily answered with a basic Google Search.  I tell teachers and students to keep the questions down to three to five well thought out inquiries.  This will help target your students’ thinking and keep the interview process flowing smoothly.
  • Email the questions to the expert ahead of time.  This helps the expert prepare any additional talking points or resources needed for the live interview.  Yes, we usually have one or two bonus questions ready if time allows during the live session, but since time is of the essence for everyone, preparation counts!
  • Have students dress up and practice professionalism. When we do a live expert interview via Skype or face-to-face, my students lead the conversation.  They dress up that day, practice asking their questions before going live, and always stand with confidence in front of the camera or the guest.  They might look relaxed off camera, but while live, they run the show.  This is part of the speaking and listening skills of the Common Core, so why not have them present to authentic audiences?
  • Value the expert’s time.  We usually ask for 15-20 minutes for an interview, which is not an extensive period for busy people.  Often, the experts are willing to stick around for 30 minutes, but it’s important to value their schedules as well as your own.
  • If the opportunity presents itself, ask the expert if they will partner with the class for future collaborations.  Experts can take on further roles if willing and if schedules permit it.  Consider having them help assess student products, set challenges for the class, or even mentor small groups as they walk through a project.  You’ll be surprised what is possible.

In any case, consider the power experts can bring to your classroom.   Not only can they inspire the students, they can provide some of the real world connections you are looking to make.

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