A DreamEducator Guest Post by Jennifer Barefoot
Since joining DreamWakers in January of 2019, Jennifer Barefoot, a Media Specialist at Grovetown Middle School in Georgia, has made a huge impact in our community. She has helped her colleagues host more than 30 flashchats for the students of GMS, was named our 2020 Educator of the Year at last year’s annual celebration, and is currently a DreamWakers Educator Fellow, aiding us to craft the most useful flashchat experience for our educators and students.
Mrs. Barefoot shares her favorite tips and tricks in this post, which can serve as a guide for both new and experienced DreamEducators! Check out the Q&A below to learn more about how to effectively prepare for flashchats and integrate them seamlessly into your lessons.
How do flashchats support your classroom curriculum?
Flashchats allow educators to extend learning outside of classroom walls. As teachers, we are expected to follow a curriculum map and teach the content standards. However, we know that true student learning takes place when students are able to take that knowledge and relate it to the real world.
So many times we get the question from students, “When will I ever use this?” Flashchats allow students to answer this question.
They are able to talk to a career professional that is not only able to tell them how they will use knowledge but will also tell them the steps they need to take to get there.
How much time do you spend preparing your students and what does that preparation entail?
The great thing about DreamWakers flashchats is that preparation can be as simple or involved as you would like it to be (or that time allows). Actual preparation for the flashchat can take as little as 15–30 minutes of instruction time.
- Generally, classroom teachers put in a flashchat request through me [the school’s Media Specialist] based on what they are studying in their next unit. You want to allow enough time — at least two to three weeks — to be matched with a career professional and also so that students can appropriately prepare for the flashchat.
- After you have received confirmation of a speaker, you will receive a bio from DreamWakers. You should provide the bio to the students so that they may become familiar with their speaker and also use any additional resources, such as included links, to help develop two questions each. I have found it easiest to create a Google form that includes the bio, important links, student information, and a space for two questions to be entered.
- The day of the flashchat, I print the questions out and distribute them to the students so that they may refer to them during the flashchat.
- Prior to the flashchat, I may run through what it will look like by explaining what the hot seat is [where students sit to ask questions to the speaker], how to look at the camera, and proper manners and behavior.
How much does student preparation benefit their flashchat experience?
Student preparation is extremely important to the flashchat experience. Generally, the students and the career professional lead the flashchat, and the teacher is merely the facilitator. For many students, this is their first flashchat experience and they can easily become nervous.
I have found that the takeaway from the flashchat grows exponentially when the student has more time to learn about the speaker and develop questions. Because students develop their own questions, they are able to have ownership in the flashchat experience.
Preparing adequately beforehand helps the process run more smoothly, as well as helps put their minds at ease. It also allows each student to make a connection with the speaker before they even participate in the flashchat.
What is the most important piece of advice that you have for new DreamEducators?
When trying to incorporate a flashchat into lesson planning or unit development, you don’t have to have a career professional that matches your standards 100%.
Speakers not only provide valuable knowledge about their profession, but they also are open and honest with their answers. By the end of the flashchat, students are generally laughing with the speaker and are relaxed and comfortable. DreamWakers career professionals are not only inspirational but relatable. One thing that always remains the same is their message: dream big!
In the video below, Jennifer shares her advice for new and veteran DreamEducators alike. We hope you find her tips helpful heading into the new school year, utilizing them to create amazing future experiences for students.
Are you an educator looking to bring your lessons to life through conversation with career professionals? Join DreamWakers today!
Not sure which type of flashchat your class could use? Check out our flashchat calendar for ideas to incorporate inspiring DreamSpeakers in your classroom every month of the year.