Students in the tiny Australian suburb of Epsom (population: 1,500) aren’t exposed to a whole lot of neighbors. And their homeland of Australia has no adjacent national neighbors.
As a result, the theme of “neighbors” was of particular interest during Epsom Primary School teacher Jenny Ashby’s recent “Skype Around the World in 24 Hours” (#SAW24) session with her students . This was the third time Ashby had conducted this marathon, full-day event in which a class uses Skype video calling to connect with other schools around the globe and exchange ideas about a specific #SAW24 theme (past themes have included ‘What’s in your lunch box and what do you play?’ and ‘What do you value?’).
Ashby, the school’s information and communications technology specialist, says that the students asked questions during this #SAW24 like “‘Who are your local, regional, and national neighbors?’ and ‘Why are neighbors important to you?’”
The #SAW24 started at 9 AM on a Friday and the students worked hard to make Skype video calls all day and night until 9 AM Saturday morning. During this time, they spoke to some 20 schools from the United Kingdom, United States, China, Denmark, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and other parts of Australia. In effect, the students camped out in the classroom, ate together and took turns trying to nap while others kept the #SAW24 going – all with the goal of talking to schools in as many times zones as possible around the globe.
Ashby says, “They learned about both state and national neighbors from places like China and the United States. One of the fun, spontaneous things that happened was that some of the schools started singing their national anthems to us. We enjoyed singing the Australian National Anthem and also trying out our Mandarin skills with students in Hong Kong.”
For over a decade, Ashby has implemented innovative technologies in the classroom, starting with laptops and WiFi and then moving on to podcasting and using mobile devices. These days, she is doing a lot of work with Skype and social media.
She created a wider digital ecosystem around #SAW24 that included a wiki so that other participating schools had a place to store additional information, images and video for all of the students to see. Ashby says, “There was also a data page so we could compare our schools and countries and there was a shared map so each school could place a pin to show where they are on our wonderful planet.”
During the event, students took turns leading each of the Skype Video Calls. Those who were not participating in a given call were tasked with live tweeting the #SAW24 from @epsomps.
Ashby laughs, “Although the students are supposed to get some rest during the 24 hours, everyone is too excited to sleep very much. That’s why we finish on a Saturday… so there’s still time to catch up on sleep by the time school starts again Monday.”
This 24 hour adventure is the kind of innovative learning activity that teachers are creating all around the world to break down the walls of their classrooms. Take a look at some more stories about Skype in the classroom.