An educator shares that innovation isn’t just about cool products—it’s about how you’re willing to use them to connect with and learn from others.

GUEST COLUMN | by Ralph Krauss

Journalist Margaret Fuller once said, “If you have knowledge, let others light their candle in it.” It is with this approach that Edutainment Learning was created. Through this initiative, students have had the opportunity to connect with expert guest speakers from around the world through video conferencing technology.

A classroom projector—complete with an HDMI cord linked to an iPad in an iOgrapher case on a tripod—allows any class with wireless internet to bring experts from around the world into the classroom through Zoom video conferencing.

This allows the students to see and hear the guest speakers and the guest speakers to see and hear the students.

Whether it is a survivor from the 82nd floor of World Trade Center II with multiple history classes, to a Nobel Prize winning Physicist with science students studying about nuclear energy—every speaker has a story to share.

These stories become a lesson for the classes that can supplement a teacher’s lesson beyond that of a book or video. These lessons are living, breathing, primary sources of information that students can ask questions to and get real answers.

Emotionally Connecting to Content

Thomas Czepiel, a Social Studies teacher at Pinecrest Academy of Nevada St. Rose Campus, had been participating since the inception of Edutainment Learning.

“As a Secondary Social Studies Teacher, I always try to find new and creative ways to get students engaged with primary source documents,” says Thomas. “[There’s] no better way to educate the world than through Edutainment. My students get a primary account from people that have experienced the world,” he says.

Supplementing teacher instruction with expert guest speakers through video conferencing technology absolutely reinforces a lesson for students.

This combines the long-established modality of sharing information verbally, with 21st-century technology in real-time. Students can read about genocide in a book or online. However, when a class can ask a Holocaust survivor about their experience and a vivid response is instantly volleyed back, an emotional connection with content happens. This begins a bond, and an attachment of sorts, that the student has with the material and will never forget.

Classroom to Real-World Connection

Many teachers will agree that students remember best through experiential learning. Some students can search their way through content, but who better to answer student questions about whales than the Head Trainer at SeaWorld, or a marine biology professor, or the Vice President of Oceanic Policy with the World Wildlife Fund?  

This modality can support all grades and all subjects. Students have curiosities that can be met instantly through video conferencing and interacting with real-life experts in their fields.

The use of video conferencing in the classroom can help broaden a class’s perspective and enrich their learning experience by connecting them with various people from the outside world. (Click on pictures to enlarge and see captions)

What Engagement Looks Like

When students ask questions, they are utilizing interpersonal skills.

These sessions usually begin with an expert discussing their background. This is followed by an explanation of their area of expertise. This portion of the lecture of talk can last anywhere from five to twenty minutes. This builds students’ curiosities about a certain topic.

More often than not, once the speaker asks, “Does anyone have any questions?” —hands go up immediately.

At times, students use what they previously knew before meeting their speaker and apply it to what they want while the speaker is there. These questions are met with answers for the students to take with them wherever they go in life.

“I am always in awe of the creativity of Ralph Krauss and whom he Zoom’s in to our classrooms,” says Dr. Carrie Buck, president of the Pinecrest Foundation, an organization that supports Edutainment Learning. “You never know what incredible expert guest will be showing up next to inspire our students,” she says.

Ohio State University Fisher School of Business Senior Lecturer, Dr. Mark Sullivan has participated in many of these events guest teaching over video conference in middle school and high school. “This is a highly innovative approach to teaching, that creates an under-the-skin learning experience, or set of experiences—this really is the future,” he says.

“And those schools that are willing to do this,” he adds, “really understand what innovation is about. Innovation is not about product innovation. It’s about creating new experiences that influence and grow knowledge.

Will We Ever Be Out of Guests?

Whether it is the concrete experience of a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist guest teaching a lesson to a writing class on expository writing, or the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation teaching a middle school finance class about the importance of saving—it is safe to say that, with approximately 7½ billion people on the planet, there are no shortage of potential guests from which we might draw lessons to be learned through this initiative.

Ralph Krauss is a Digital Learning Coach at Pinecrest Academy of Nevada. An educator with a passion for using technology to improve and enhance education, he has brought various experts in a number of fields into his classroom through video conferencing—from Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award winners to Astronauts, Governors, presidential candidates, and Nobel Prize winners. Ralph has also presented at various conferences including ISTE, CUE-NV, CSAN, and TCEA. Contact him through LinkedIn.