A guest blog post written by 5th grade teacher Arin Kress from Park Street Intermediate School, Grove City, Ohio
As educators, we challenge our students everyday, so why not create challenges for ourselves in the process?
One of the biggest challenges I created for myself this school year involved Skype in the classroom. Skype in the classroom is an amazing community of teachers and guest speakers who are looking to collaborate using Skype. A teacher can search for specific lessons within a given content area; classes to video call on Skype that are at the same grade level; guest speakers from around the world on a multitude of topics and much more. The sky is the limit with Skype in the classroom!
I first heard about Skype in the classroom thanks to the #MysterySkype community on Twitter. Skype in the classroom have an online space for teachers dedicated to Mystery Skype. What is it? It is an educational game which involves two classes video calling each other without knowing each other’s location. The students have to ask ‘yes or no’ questions to determine where the other class is. Knowing that this would be an incredible experience for my students, I quickly created an account and began to connect with other teachers from around the world.
My discovery of Skype in the classroom happened two weeks before the end of the school year. I quickly tried to set up as many Mystery Skype calls as I could. Within minutes, I had responses from teachers in Japan and Argentina. The next day I received one from Australia. As the calls started to come together from all over the world I thought it would be fun if we could speak with at least one person from each of the seven continents. I was in shock that it was that easy to connect with other teachers that I began to contact more teachers and guest speakers to see if we could travel “Around the World in 6 Days with Skype”. Not everything went smoothly. There were times I wanted to give up. But I’m glad I went through with it. I was fortunate enough to be able to schedule Skype calls with classes from five states, eight countries and three guest speakers; a total of 16 calls in six days – and yes, one from every continent. We spoke with students in: Delaware, Wisconsin, Argentina, California, Iowa, Canada, Costa Rica, New Jersey, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Belgium and Chile. We even made a video about our journey that you can view here.
My students and I learned so many lessons because of this journey. The majority of the calls were Mystery Skype calls, so the students learned about the geography of not only North America, but all seven continents. They also learned about different languages from their peers. Nearly every class spoke more than one language. My students were surprised to find that students their age were fluent in more than one language, and they inquired when they could start their study of foreign languages.
The one big lesson that I took away from this journey is that we live in a global world, therefore we must teach in a global classroom. Skype in the classroom and many other free digital tools allow teachers to ‘flatten the walls of their classrooms’ and bring the ‘real world’ inside. However, there shouldn’t be a barrier between the two – the real world is our classroom – we just have to seek out ways to open the figurative blinds of our classroom’s windows so we can all view a window to the world. As teachers, I think it’s important to challenge ourselves. We need to listen to the words we tell our students daily:
Go for it! Never give up! Keep trying! Everything might not go as planned, and that’s ok. Be flexible and able to adapt. Don’t try to do it alone. Ask others for help!
I’m looking forward to the challenges that will present themselves this school year, especially the ones involving Skype in the classroom!
This is an edited version of Arin Kress’s five part blog series about her journey with Skype in the classroom.