This year I’ve explored connecting classes via Google Hangouts. Students have really enjoyed having an authentic audience (another class) to discuss their reading and learning.
We’ve used Google Hangouts as a whole class. This format would work really well for connecting your class with an outside expert. There are multiple ways to engage your entire class even if only one (or a few) student(s) are on video in the Hangout. Those include using a backchannel or shared doc/site for audience participation/collaboration.
The more personal the Hangout can be, though, the more powerful. Engaging smaller groups of students can personalize the Google Hangout and greatly improve the experience. Note: Students under the age of 13 are not allowed access of Google Hangouts on their personal device (users must be 13 or older to use Google+).
In addition to smaller groups, students should have a clear understanding of what is (and what is not) effective communication. If students have been introduced to Speaking & Listening standards first, the Google Hangout is an excellent opportunity to practice and develop skills. Further breaking down the standard into learning targets, can allow students the opportunity to self-assess and get feedback.
Personalizing, giving a purpose, and providing explicit expectations for the Google Hangout will allow both teachers and students to get the more out of connecting with an authentic audience.