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Learn Around the World
Pros: Live presentations give easy, interactive access to far off places.
Cons: Much of the content seems to focus on just three parts of the world: Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the United States.
Bottom Line: Unique way to take students on a world tour without actually leaving the classroom, but needs some basic technology and time zone coordination for best results.
Use Learn Around the World to take students on a field trip without leaving the classroom. Most topics fit easily in a social studies curriculum. Visits to sites from the United States and other countries focus primarily on history and/or cross-cultural awareness. Some animal-based programs, such as elephants or Komodo dragons, could also fit in a science unit. Browse the calendar to learn about upcoming live programs. Once teachers sign up, they'll want to help prepare their students for the experience. Learn a bit about the topic and help them develop questions to ask. Afterward, follow up with discussion, individual reports, or group projects to synthesize what the students learned. The live interactive programs can last up to an hour or more, and they work best with ample preparation and debriefing. Teachers should budget for sufficient time in their day to dedicate to this project. Live participation also requires a good setup with reliable internet and the proper equipment, including a screen large enough for the whole class to see and possibly a web camera with microphone capabilities.
Teachers can also use the recordings of past programs. Although the live, interactive piece will be missing, students can still learn from the videos. Teachers may want to prepare lots of scaffolding to introduce the video and debrief afterward, and build in their own related interactive activities.
Learn Around the World is a nonprofit organization that offers live virtual field trips and video meetings through its website. Each of its three programs has a different approach. GEOshows are large, interactive virtual field trips guided by a live host targeted to second- to fifth-grade classrooms. Teachers simply need to sign up, register for a GEOshow on the calendar, and join in the conference when it starts. A few limited classrooms can participate in the videoconference on-screen, whereas others can watch, and send in questions by text. GEOtours are small, personalized field trips with accompanying lesson plans. Available topics are broad and varied, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, natural wonders of southern Mexico, and Angkor Wat. And GEOtalk is a live videoconference series in which students can hear about life in countries around the world.
After the speaker talks a bit about where they live, students have the opportunity to ask questions. Some content and live experiences are open to all users and some require a membership to the GEOclub for $20/year. The private GEOtours also require payment, ranging from $140 to $200. Recordings of many of these live presentations are available later, for free, on the Learn Around the World YouTube channel.
Learn Around the World takes students on exciting journeys and introduces them to different cultures. The live aspect feels like having a guest speaker come to your class to share videos and firsthand information. Much of the presentation involves students watching and listening. But because students can ask questions, comment, and participate through quizzes and surveys with Kahoot (in the live, synchronous experiences), there's an important interactive piece as well. Students may particularly enjoy the opportunity to talk with people who live in or have visited different countries and ask them questions about what it's like there.
Watching the recordings of past programs on the Learn Around the World YouTube channel can also be interesting, though the learning will be completely passive. Teachers could easily use clips of those videos to highlight particular information. Overall, Learn Around the World could have more teaching supports such as supplemental resources on the featured countries or ideas on how to scaffold the lessons. And though some of the programs highlight less well-represented areas of the world, the coverage is actually quite limited (currently focused mainly on Southeast Asia, Latin America, and a few U.S. locations).