Ed Tip: Finding Virtual Guest Speakers

Explore 9 options for bringing virtual guest speakers into your classroom.

Grades K-12 5 min Resource by:
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There are multiple benefits of bringing in guest speakers. It creates novelty. It may spark student interest on a new topic. It can also affirm and reinforce new learning. Hearing firsthand testimony and perspectives can help students make real-life connections that add relevance to the learning. These experiences expose students to new insights and perspectives, and they may even inspire students to consider vocations or avocations for their future. While teachers have long brought live guests speakers into their classrooms, technology now allows them to expand their options and bring in guests virtually.

Places to Find Virtual Guest Speakers

Consider using these 10 options for bringing in virtual guest speakers:

Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC): This organization offers free learning programs for students of all ages, every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 1:00 pm ET. These virtual programs are typically 45 to 50 minutes in length and provide opportunities to “visit” museums, national parks, zoos, aquariums, and science centers. Programs are free with registration.

DART (Distance And Rural Technology) Learning: This is a service by the New South Wales Department of Education that “provides access and equity to education by supporting teachers with professional development and students with engaging virtual excursions.”

Skype a Scientist: This is a free program that connects you with scientists for a 30- to 60-minute Q & A session. The mission of Skype a Scientist is “to make science accessible and fun through personal connections with scientists.”

Speakers for Schools: This is a service from the United Kingdom. Their website states that they “are helping level the playing field for young people of all backgrounds” by linking “students to industry-leading companies and networked support partners.”

Zoos, Parks, and Museums: Many of these places also host live virtual visits, where zookeepers, park rangers, and docents engage directly with groups of students. For example, the San Diego Zoo offers live virtual programs guided by wildlife experts, the National Park Service has a number that you can call to set up videoconferencing with a ranger, and you can schedule a docent to provide a virtual tour of the San Diego Museum of Art.

Universities: Some universities offer virtual classroom visits and resources, such as the CSE K–12 Virtual Classroom Resources and Virtual Guest Speakers from the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering.

Authors: More and more authors have moved to virtual visits as a result of the pandemic. Search for and visit author or publisher websites to see if those of interest are offering virtual visits, like Penguin Random House’s upcoming author events or Kate Messner’s virtual author visit webinars.

Former Students, School Alumni, and Family Members: These local connections may have expertise and be interested in being a virtual guest speaker. They may also be able to help connect you with a friend, colleague, or family member who would be an ideal virtual guest for a topic being discussed in your classroom.

Local Experts: Reach out to local experts and professionals. This can be a great way to supplement your class content and provide local context. It’s also a nice way to introduce students to potential career options.

Integration Ideas

Similar to planning a virtual field trip experience, it’s important to do more than just have students sit and listen to a guest speaker. Begin by targeting curricular objectives to which you can align the experience. Then, make plans to prepare your students for the guest, find ways to engage them with the speaker, and help students demonstrate their learning and reflect on their experience afterward.

How can I learn more?

For more information about virtual guest speakers, explore the following AVID Open Access article: Invite Virtual Guest Speakers to Engage and Inspire Students.