This afternoon, I had the opportunity to join a dynamic community of global leaders at the 2nd Annual Social Good Summit presented by Mashable, the 92nd Street Y, and the United Nations Foundation to discuss a big idea: the power of innovative thinking and technology to solve our greatest challenges.
Specifically, I took to the stage to discuss Skype’s unique ability to facilitate social good through the removal of traditional economic, geographic and/or cultural barriers to communication. This can be illustrated through our ‘Skype in the classroom‘ initiative, which embodies the three characteristics that are central to our brand: Universal, Useful and Wonderful.
The Universal nature of Skype software means that anyone anywhere can use it to connect with anyone somewhere else around the world. An example illustrating this took place earlier this year, when a geography class in the United Kingdom wanted to learn how tourism impacted the lives of the Massai tribe in Tanzania. Because they used the same Skype software, the class and the tribesmen were able to talk across continents and cultural boundaries to learn a lot about their different lifestyles.
The Useful nature of Skype means that educators can put it into practical use to truly enrich the learning process. From the hundreds of projects that educators have collaborated on, we seen that this ranges from bringing in actresses, authors, politicians and other guest lecturers to teach lessons or connecting with people overseas to learn more about the culture in a foreign country or to practice speaking another language with a native speaker.
But most importantly, Skype in a classroom setting leads to Wonderful learning experiences. For example, teachers can now not only give a lesson about the war in Afghanistan, but also they can start a Skype pen pal program with a class in Afghanistan to help their students understand what it’s like to live in a war-torn country.
As you’ll see from the testimonials in this video, there are so many different ways that educators are using Skype in their classrooms – the only limit is their imagination.
During my speech, I also had the pleasure to talk live via Skype video call with an engineering class at the Oliver Street Elementary School in Newark, NJ. Oliver Street School is the first school in Newark to offer its middle school students courses from Project Lead the Way (PLTW), the leading provider of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) education curricular programs. The school’s goal is to inspire students to pursue 21st Century careers by providing them a program in which they learn practical applications for what they learn in their core academic courses. And Skype is playing a huge role in getting their students excited about learning. I’d like to thank the school’s principal, Mr. Havier Nazario, the class’ teacher, Mr. Alan Usherenko, and sixth grader Giovanna Bialoglowka for opening their classroom up to us and sharing how they recently used Skype to connect with engineers at New York University to learn more about the fabrication and cutting of metal.
Many of these connections wouldn’t be possible without our free ‘Skype in the classroom’ online resource, which allows teachers and subject-matter experts to find like-minded individuals with whom they can collaborate on projects and share educational resources with one another. In the six months since ‘Skype in the classroom’ officially launched, the response has been greater than we ever could have imagined. The following infographic illustrates the scale of this initiative’s global impact to date:
It is truly amazing to visit the ‘Skype in the classroom‘ site and read about the ways that our software is transforming the educational experience of students in so many teachers’ classrooms. And it is inspiring to think about a classroom of the future where the learning process is never limited by physical, economic or cultural boundaries. It’s a place where students will be able to use technology to have access to big data to start attacking some of the world’s most pressing issues and crises. And it’s also somewhere we can reduce suspicion of foreign cultures, minimize racism and increase tolerance through the connectedness that is born through technology.
We really see the possibility of making a million connected classrooms a reality and we will continue to do our part in working together to foster the classroom of the future, through the ‘Skype in the classroom’ resource and partnerships with both for profit, not-for-profit and governmental organizations. We invite you to join us in this initiative at http://education.skype.com.