Saturday, March 1, 2014

Live Broadcasts: Creating Your Own Student Press Conferences

Each year it becomes a fun challenge to figure out ways to engage my students and connect them with authentic audiences. Along with different uses a technology based activities such as Mystery Skypes, virtual field trips, BYOD and others, I started to broadcast my students in events via Google Hangouts. One such event I’ve held with my students for the past six years called “The Dead Explorers' Press Conference.”

This Common Core-based project is built on a foundation of research, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity (I add a fifth “C” in competition) with students taking on differentiated roles. One of the most powerful aspects has been adding the use of Google Hangouts. Through this addition, our students have the chance to share with a global audience all they've learned about explorers in a "typical press conference" style activity with press in the audience and explorers up front. I decided to broadcasted the event live so I could provide an authentic audience by inviting other classrooms to watch and learn. Several classrooms have joined us to observe from locally here in Southern California to across the country in North Carolina and other places in-between.

Let me paint a more detailed picture. Eight to ten students (of my 35) take on the rolls of being explorers. They work to keep their "explorer identity" secret from the other students. Those not taking on the role of explorer take on the role of reporters and team up to start their investigation. Their job, as reporters, is to first research and understand all the key explorers and their information that we are focused on and gather. They organize the information to create questions. I take time to teach my student reporters about the different types questions that fall into bloom’s taxonomy ranging from simple to complex. (Confession - Many tend to still use yes or no questions when the press conference begins, but it’s all a process of learning) As the students research background information to become reporters and build their bank of questions. Meanwhile the other students are researching in depth to “become” one individual explorer. Reporters... Explores... it sounds a bit crazy but it's incredibly motivating and exciting for the kids.  

After four one hour sessions of research, information gathering, and preparation, the students are ready for their press conference. The goal for the reporters is to use their research and questions to solve who the Mystery Explorers are part of the press conference.  

Student reporters choose news outlets to represent from such as Yahoo News, NY Times, and even local TV news channels.  The broadcast begins. Reports shout out to try and be recognized and ask their question. The kids love this... Their teacher requiring them to shout out... Awesome!  Being broadcast increases the energy, desire to succeed, and overall performance of the students.  The kids know other students are watching and this creation of an authentic audience adds excitement, accountability as well as motivation for students to produce high quality end products and accurate information.  The results of learning are demonstrated in the writing project that comes after the event.  

After a series of questions, reports must write an article identifying who they believe each of the 8-10 “Mystery Explorers” to be by providing evidence from their research that matched the answers given by each explorer to the questions in the press conference.

While reporters write their articles via Google docs, my student “explorers” write an in-depth reflection piece on their individual explorer along with a comparison to the other European Explorers. They tell why their explorer deserved their acknowledgement they have received in history. Although my press conference is focused on the Age of Exploration, it’s a lesson frame that is easily adaptable to all types of content.

To start broadcasting your class you can take the same steps I took or find an even faster way.  First, and most importantly, be sure your students have waivers/parent permission to take part in such an online event.  I had also already previously created my YouTube Channel, Gmail and Google Plus Accounts, all important. You’ll need a webcam and external mic to best capture the content.  Using Google Hangouts, I started my broadcast, but we were not live broadcasting yet. Starting the hangout gave me my link to share. Once I had a link for my Hangout On-Air I shared that link via our class website, Twitter and Edmodo. Then just click “broadcast” and you’re live!  Just imagine the positive impact your class can have on the world!

It's been impressive to see the students during their press conference.  They not only step up to the challenge, but they exceed my expectations.  Although I’ve only touched on a few aspects, the depth of learning this project provides is far beyond any lecture or history book unit and the addition of an authentic audience through live broadcasting the event only increases the quality of work. Check out this years conference!

Dead Explorers' Press Conference