Thinking Differently about Learning- Bringing in an Expert

Cross posted on Langwitches Blog by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano

I am working hard at being a “connector” at my new school. I want to help shift the culture to thinking differently about learning. Bringing in experts from around the world to make a topic and content come alive, to answer questions and taking learning off the pages of a book is a critical component of modern learning. I don’t want a Skype call to be an isolated incidence, but to be part of:
  • how we learn
  • how we dig deeper into information
  • how we research, analyze and evaluate information
  • how we become aware of different perspectives
One of our 7th grade Humanities class is on to something BIG! They are STORYTELLERS. They are developing a story that soon the entire Graded community and the WORLD will share. Shhhh…. I can’t and don’t want to give too much away, but be prepared… it is BIG :)
Just a tiny clue…
In order to prepare, they have called in an expert, Christine Weitbrecht, a transmedia storytelling specialist,  to answer some of their immediate questions and guide them as they are developing their storyline.
Students were well prepared for the Skype interview (which makes THE difference between a Skype call and a LEARNING call) and shared the responsibilities to introduce our school, the project, give an overview of the storyline so far and then dig deeper into questions.
These 7th graders articulated their questions:
  • How can we best introduce the story to others? What would be the best way to start? What should the timeline be?
  • What about interactivity? Will the audience have a say in how the story continues?
  • Why does Ms. Weitbrech feel that transmedia is the future of storytelling and marketing?

On my school blog, I have posted the following questions to the students after the Skype call:

  • What were the advantages of bringing in an expert via Skype to the classroom?
  • Could students have learned the answers to their questions simply from a book?
  • Will the Skype interview support and shape students’ future work on their project?
  • What are some other opportunities in school, when bringing in an “expert” via Skype could help students learn?
  • What do you think?

If you can spare a moment read their comments and maybe even leave them a reply. I do want to highlight a few excerpts of the comments for you here though.

Mr. Beck (teacher):

[…] I think the skype conference with Christine took this project to a new level. Without her expertise, we would have been guessing rather than being deliberate in our decisions on how to actual tell a story using the interactive power of transmedia. As a teacher I learned that even if you don’t fully understand new developments in your field, you can reach out to experts in the real world who can not only serve as excellent facilitators for student learning, but can also be inspirational.

Juan Carlos:

Since she was an expert and we were just starting to learn about trans-media, we learned a lot of things that we needed to know but before we didn’t know. She gave ideas and suggestions that by ourselves I think we couldn’t have come up with. I also think that some of the answers to our questions couldn’t have been answered by a book. For example the question ” Why does Ms. Weitbrech feel that transmedia is the future of storytelling and marketing ? ” couldn’t have been answered by a book because it has to be her own opinion

Ji Won

[…] I think that this Skype interview would be way better than reading off of a book. Although, books are an amazing way of learning and educating, this Skype interview with Christine, an expert, would be much helpful because we got to ask questions unlike a book. Also, books have a limit of information. It only teaches us what is written in it, but an interview is more “interactive.” She gave us suggestions in how we could start our project. Since this project is based on a new type of story, it helped us a lot in how to manage it while it is running. A Skype interview with an expert helped a lot because Christine is an expert in Transmedia and we were beginners. I think that a Skype interview would really support and shape students’ future work.  […]


[…] She gave us information to improve on our story, and to really give it that “push” that it needs to get of the ground. Also I think that it was useful to talk to her because most of us are not used to writing a story like this. We can wright essays or papers and maybe even a short story. Were as she helped us out with something we had not experienced before.[…]

I am asking YOU the same questions than we asked the students. How have you, as an educator, taken learning off the pages of a book by bringing in “experts” via video conferencing?  What are some other opportunities in school, when bringing in an “expert” via Skype could help students learn?