Q: Over the holidays, I used Skype to chat with family members who I was unable to visit. I’ve been trying to think of ways to bring this concept into a classroom—any ideas?

A: We might not be in “The Jetsons” era yet, but video calls are real. Even better, they are free. Skype, which you used, is one of the most highly recognized video conferencing programs for one-on-one calls. Google+ Hangout works similarly to Skype, though it allows you to have true conferences—up to 10 callers can be connected at the same time. To use video calls, both parties need a computer, tablet or phone and a WiFi signal, though some applications, like Apple’s FaceTime (for iPhone 5, through AT&T), can work on cellular signals. I suggest hooking your phone or computer devices into a SMART Board projector or TV monitor to make it work in class.

As far as classroom activities, video conferencing can let you see what’s going on in another studio, no matter how far away. It’s also fun for students. Hook up with an educator across the country, and form dance pen pals. Your classes can perform work for each other, or students can create work together. I’ve also considered using video conferencing to bring in a guest artist and share the cost with another teacher or school. If you use Google+ Hangout, the guest artist could even remain at his or her home location and conference with multiple classes. Moreover, Google+ Hangouts can be broadcast live “On Air,” on Google+, YouTube and your website. This program will not only automatically save your work, it can also give parents or school administrators the occasional high-tech peek into your classroom.

Barry Blumenfeld teaches at the Friends Seminary School in New York City. He’s an adjunct professor at New York University and on faculty of the Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y.

Photo courtesy of Barry Blumenfeld

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