Episode 49 – Virtual Guest Speakers

In this episode of The PE Geek podcast, we explore the reasons why you should bring virtual guest speakers into your PE Classroom. We focus on the ways you can reach out to celebrities and sports personalities to lock them down as speakers and the tools to conduct the sessions successfully. We also discuss a number examples of PE Techers using virtual guest speakers for amazing learning benefit.

Topics & resources explored in today’s episode include

  1. Why you should bring virtual guest speakers into your classroom
  2. Google Hangouts, Skype & Appear.in
  3. Speakpipe & Socrative.com

Press Play below to listen or visit the podcast page. Alternatively, download a full episode transcript here


00:29 Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone, and welcome to episode number 49 of the PE Geek podcast. And as always, it’s an absolute pleasure to be here. And I’m super excited to take you through an episode centred on the role of virtual guests in your physical education classroom. We’re gonna look at what they are, how you can make it happen, and just give you a couple of examples of people who’ve used this and leveraged virtual guests to improve learning outcomes, or bring in an expert into their classroom, which is really quite exciting.

01:05 JR: So before we dive into that content, remember that you can head along to the pegeek.com/49, obviously for episode 49, where you can download all the notes and links and various things mentioned throughout today’s episode, as well as a complete word-for-word transcript of the show. Now, I really wanna mention, the transcripts are well downloaded. People are actually heading along and getting those as a really quick way to remember everything that’s happened in the episode, and also to skim through the content that has been mentioned. So I certainly recommend that if you’ve listened to it, head along, get the transcript and save it, and then know that you’ve got that there for you to reference at any time.

01:53 JR: Alright, let’s dive into today’s content. Now, I think we’ve all pretty much got the general concept of what it’s like to have a guest in your classroom. And I can think back to my own time in school when I was a student, and we’d quite often have people come in and share their expertise on a given topic. They could be a community member, or they could be an athlete, or anyone along the lines who had a message that they could deliver to the students. And our role would be to create some questions and find some information about that person, and then maybe do some sort of follow-up project. This is a common occurrence in classrooms all over the world, where you would have an incursion and someone comes into your class and shares some knowledge. I guess the concept of a virtual guest is pretty much no different, but their whole role is obviously virtual.

02:48 JR: So if you’re like me and you’re in a school which is quite isolated from a main area of town, or something along those lines, then the ability to get a guest into your classroom becomes really quite difficult. I mean, especially in my school. No one’s gonna travel extensive distances to get to the school simply to talk to my students for 20 or 30 minutes. And if they would do that, then sometimes, the calibre of people would probably charge for it, expect some sort of payment, which again, is just completely outside of what my school’s likely to provide. So in this particular episode, we’re gonna look at what you can do to leverage the internet as a medium to bring in guests, and then give you a couple of examples, and some sort of inspiration to why you should look at doing this in your phys ed classroom.

03:41 JR: So I guess we’ll start with why guest speakers are useful additions in your classroom. And I guess the number one reason is that it makes a topic really relevant for your students. You can probably sit there and think that if you were teaching a particular topic and you could bring in someone from that particular space who happens to be an expert, or has happened to experience way more than you as the teacher has in that topic, then you’re likely to help students make this really good connection about their future.

04:17 JR: So in my particular instance, teaching an outdoor education unit, I happened to connect with an expert named Eric Philips, and you can go and Google him, and he was one of the first people to navigate across, walking across the North Pole, or Iceland, or Greenland, sorry. And his story is quite extraordinary, and at that particular time in the outdoor education unit, we were learning about adventures and we were planning for our own adventure. And we had to obviously think about lots of different things along the way, and make sure we had all the necessary equipment. So bringing in someone who did that on a completely elevated scale made it really relevant to the students who were about to embark on their own minor version of this. And I believe that this is absolutely something that can be used in every topic area.

05:13 JR: So let’s say you were teaching about anatomy or physiology with your students. How can you find someone who has an expertise in that who will come on and provide questions or answers to your students? Maybe you’re learning about a particular sport. Well, go and find someone who’s an athlete in that sport, at whatever level they happen to be, and bring them into the class through some sort of virtual means, and just have a look at how that helps increase the students’ engagement and understanding of what it is that they’re trying to do.

05:50 JR: So, for me, the whole entire focus of getting in a virtual guest speaker, Eric Philips, in the beginning, was to really make that connection between our content and what I was trying to get them to do, but also just to inspire them. There was a different person coming in to share a message with the students. It wasn’t necessarily me, and it really did value add to the classroom dynamic. That’s the why around why you should look at trying to find some sort of expert or guest speaker in your class. Let’s start with the how you can make this sort of possible.

06:26 JR: Once you decide on a particular topic or area of interest that would make sense to find a virtual guest speaker for, there’s a couple of ways that you might head out and actually try and get these people on board. The very first and most logical way would be to see whether or not that particular person has a website. Depending on how big of a person they are, then this is probably either easier or harder to achieve, but let’s say that they do have a website, they’re probably going to have a contact form of some means. It is likely that if they’re a really big person, that they’re probably not getting the emails themselves. However, that really shouldn’t discount you from at least attempting to get in contact with someone surrounding a role as a virtual guest speaker. I’ve been down the process before of contacting some serious celebrities, just on the off chance that maybe they would honour the request. I sort of knew that they weren’t going to.

07:37 JR: Back in the day, my students in my outdoor education unit were learning about the impacts of climate change and so forth. We’d just watched the documentary with Al Gore, and I thought, “Why not? Let’s try. Let’s see if we can actually get someone as world-wide notable as Al Gore onto a session with my students. We asked, but obviously he was too busy to make it happen, but we did get a response from someone in his team who had thanked us and pointed us to some sort of resources and so forth that we could get. I think regardless of how big this potential guest speaker is, go and leave or get in touch with them via their website. You never know where it may end up.

08:34 JR: For me, it’s absolutely resulted in virtual guest speaker opportunities because I was not afraid to actually ask. I will mention that we did happen to get in touch with an elite sprint cyclist in Australia, and it was all because of the fact that I’d been to their site, responded to them, and then eventually found, through the email that I got, that they had a Twitter account, and the Twitter account was what I eventually used to communicate with this person. For the students who were in the class that I was trying to connect the virtual guest speaker role up with, it became a really cool opportunity to learn about some exercise physiology concepts. Then tweet the person who we were discussing, and get a response directly from them. Although we didn’t speak to them, we were getting emails back and forth and some tweets back and forth that were based on the stuff that the students were studying at the time. It does certainly not have to be dedicated time that they sit down and have a virtual Skype face-to-face recording.

09:48 JR: You could very well get some similar results in your class by having them leverage text as a medium, like putting together a heap of questions and seeing if they’ll respond. I guess once you’ve navigated that person and you’ve found their website, and you’ve put a request, you get to sit back and you get to see whether they honour it. I do recommend following up one more time, just with an email along the lines of, “Hey, I sent a request through the other day. I know you may not have seen it. Wondering if you’ve had any time to consider the request?” I don’t think any more than twice is unnecessary. Beyond that it may be becoming a bit of a spam a bit. Up until that point, more than entirely reasonable. And what you wanna do is in the email or communication is you wanna talk about what they would get out of it. They would get the opportunity to spread their message to a group of students at a younger age, which again is something that these people should be interested in doing.

10:48 JR: You definitely don’t want to position it so that it’s all about you or your students. What’s in it for these people? How are they going go impact the students at your school? They should wanna do that. They should wanna pass on their knowledge and their information to students, and providing them with an opportunity that is really leveraged, so that they don’t have to leave their house, all they have to do is be at a time and make a call or answer some emails. It’s something they should really take up the opportunity to do.

11:20 JR: Once you’ve found your guest and they’ve agreed to some sort of time or some sort of medium, a couple of ways that you can make it happen is through a Skype call. It’s very easy and quite cost-effective because it’s free to encourage someone to share their Skype details with you and then connect with them and create a voice chat or even a video chat if they were down for that.

11:48 JR: So in the very first instance that I had used a virtual guest speaker, we used Skype, and the person came on and we could see their face. We used a video call. The students came around and they responded and spoke to Eric and asked questions. And at the very end, we had a nice conversation that sort of highlighted the things that we were trying to get across. Another option would be Google Hangouts. So if you have a Google account and the other person who you want to come onto the show has a Google account, then you can invite them. They can come on as a presenter and they can share their thoughts and opinions live and answer all the various things that you would like. In terms of other options, obviously they rely on you getting information from the person, so a Skype name or an email address. Sometimes, maybe they don’t want to actually go down that particular path. So there are tools that would let you simply share a link with whoever it may be; all they have to do is agree to commit to be at that time at that place, and they don’t share any personal information. So I wanna share a couple of tools related to that.

13:02 JR: The tool that I would absolutely recommend is appear.in. And a cool part about this is that once you go to the page appear.in and type in the name that you wanna call your room, all you do is hit ‘start’. And basically, you get the ability to have a video conversation with up to eight people completely for free. But there’s no log in, there’s no installs needed, there’s no software you’ve got to download; you basically get a room link and anyone you share that room link with can come in. And then they can sort of engage in the conversation, but they haven’t had to have shared any information with you. So that is an option for people who don’t wanna go down that path.

13:50 JR: If you’re using Skype, another option is that you don’t necessarily have to share a person’s Skype name to have a conversation with them. You can use Skype to phone someone’s number. Now, they may give you a phone number or a mobile number that you can call at a given time, and you could then talk with them through just audio and create a very similar experience. And for that person, it’s probably more leverage for them because they don’t have to be at their computer. They could be still out doing whatever it is that they’re doing in their very busy life and be able to respond to your questions via their phone as if they were just on a call with someone. So a couple of really good options there.

14:33 JR: Now, in a situation where maybe you can’t make an actual connection work. So you can’t get a video call to work or an audio call to work because timing isn’t just gonna work. An option is that you could have them use a service such as SpeakPipe. Now SpeakPipe, if you head along to speakpipe.com, will actually let you create a voicemail service. Now, it’s free. So anyone who visits your unique SpeakPipe URL can leave you a voicemail message. Now the cool part about it is that, you could just basically ask a series of questions through email, and you could say, “Hey, do you mind responding to those questions using SpeakPipe?” And they would do so. They would talk into their phone or whatever it is that they’re using. And their responses get sent through to you as an mp3 recording which you can simply play back on. And the cool part about that is, that you basically get to hear their response, a little bit better than just simply text-based communication with your virtual guest. But it’s quite leverage for that person because they haven’t had to book in a specific time and place, and go back and forth about questions. So it’s a really friction-free way to get the sort of responses that you might need from a particular person.

15:54 JR: So there’re sort of the tool-set that you can use to facilitate the virtual guest speaker arrangement. We’ve sort of spoken about how you can perhaps find a person to be a virtual guest speaker and the benefits of it. But beyond that, what sort of opportunities exist if you do happen to have a virtual guest speaker in your classroom? What can you get them to do? What sort of things should you ask of a virtual guest speaker to sort of engage the students that might be in your group? Now part of the success behind previous virtual guest speakers that I’ve had in our classroom has come down to pre-planning. And the pre-planning is really important because if you get an expert onto your class and you just really got no idea what you’re gonna be asking them, then you sort of let them down and you waste their time. And you sort of… You really make the results that are attainable through something like this, quite minimal.

16:48 JR: So I really recommend doing some sort of pre-survey, or some sort of collection of ideas, or questions that you’re gonna be asking this particular person when you’re communicating with them in the beginning. For us, this involved my students sitting down with who, at this particular stage, was just someone that we were going to be interviewing, and we came up with a series of questions. And we voted on those questions. And the way we did this was using a tool called socrative.com, so S-O-C-R-A-T-I-V-E.com. And essentially I asked, to my group of students, “What would you wanna ask someone who fit this criteria?” And they responded and eventually, we had a list of questions of which they voted on, and our top 10 questions were what we then gave to Eric. And he came up with his responses ahead of time, just so we could be really concise and to the point, and he had time to think about it. And that way, we ensured that we got value from the conversation. So I really recommend coming up with your questions before you get to the call. And I’ve seen from situations where people who are put on the spot, students especially, and they just cannot think of things to ask. So you as the teacher end up having to come up with them and the point is sort of a little bit lost and you’ve wasted their time a little bit as well.

18:10 JR: Beyond asking them questions, maybe there’s something that you can get them to do. So if their area of expertise in a particular sport, could you get them to do a session? Maybe they could run an activity that revolves around that sport. Let’s say that you were teaching volleyball and you had a volleyball athlete on your… As a virtual guest speaker. Maybe they could take the students through some sort of drill or activity remotely, and if you’re in the gymnasium, then the video of them explaining the activity could take place on the side of the gym and then you could be exploring the activity inside a practical setting. And there’s a couple of examples of phys ed teachers who have done this really well in the physical education community, and I will go no further than pointing out the work of Adam Levoe in teaching a class to a group of students in the United States. So students were sitting their gym, or wherever they happened to be, and Adam was in Saudi Arabia and he was teaching the concepts of rugby to his students, which I think is tremendous because it gave this completely different angle of engagement to the students who happened to be there, because there was a new teacher for starters. He just so happened to be in a completely different country and his area of speciality was in that particular sport.

19:35 JR: So you don’t just have to go and find someone who is a world famous expert. If you’re listening to this and you have a PE teacher colleague who is in a different city, or in a different country, or you just happened to meet them online, why not look for opportunities to compare or bring your students together virtually. So let’s imagine that your students are sitting in one country and you’ve got a group of students in another country, and what you’re gonna do is just call them at a given time and you’re gonna create a competition between those groups of students. So maybe they do a dance off where they do the same dance, and then the other group does the same dance, and each group sees each other perform the dance live and, I don’t know, the teachers rate the students. Or maybe you do some sort of relay type race where the parameters are given to both teachers, they set up the same course, they start the race at the exact same time on both ends, and the students race and the winner is the person who gets all the kids back to the start… Whatever. The opportunities are there; all you need is some sort of creative thinking, two teachers who are willing to find an agreed time and you’re away.

20:48 JR: So opportunities are really limitless in this whole world of the virtual guest speaker. I certainly hope that this episode has been somewhat helpful in helping you determine how you can find someone, the tools you can use, and the ways that you might be able to leverage a virtual guest speaker in your classroom.

21:06 JR: As always you can head along to thepegeek.com/49 where you can find a list of all the links mentioned including the resources from today’s episode and a full episode transcript. Until next time I look forward to hearing your comments over at thepegeek.com/voicemail and be on the lookout for a very special Episode 50, coming to you very shortly. Speak soon, see you later.



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