Skype in the Classroom gives students a chance to participate in transformative learning experiences by virtually connecting with guest speakers and other classrooms around the globe. Without leaving the walls of their school, students enjoy the diversity of cultural exchange, discussing in real time how global issues are impacting our world. On April 17, four Skype in the Classroom member schools across America had the chance to learn about how the issues of women and girls are changing and shifting in society. Over a Skype call with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea, they joined a conversation moderated by actress America Ferrera. It was part of the Clinton Foundation’s ‘No Ceilings Conversation’ program, which creates a forum for women and girls to discuss their lives, experiences, and hopes for the future.
The event was held at the Lower East Side Girls Club in New York City. It was the first of many conversations the Clinton Foundation intends to have with students and young women. The discussions are designed to help learn about what progress has been made in women’s equality since the 1995 Platform for Action – an action that calls for full participation by women in the world economy, world society, business, and technological development, and was signed by over 200 countries.
The questions from the over 300 young women participating ranged from leadership and role models, to human trafficking, immigration. The first question from a student at Hathaway Brown School in Ohio was ironically about the very thing that teachers tell us is the most valuable using Skype in the classroom – collaboration. “How does collaboration contribute to well-being? What have you learned about the importance of collaboration and can you tell a story about how you have collaborated?” Chelsea Clinton answered first, “Collaboration is not an end goal, it’s the way forward, and we need to have the right partners.” Secretary Clinton followed Chelsea’s comment about partnership with, “I’ve learned over the course of my professional and public life, and personal life, being a partner enhances the experience. People will bring their own experience that will help you achieve the goal. In today’s world, it may be in a virtual world to collaborate, you can be part of a larger effort by reaching out and collaborating.” As more and more teachers are developing Skype pals with classrooms in neighboring and far away countries to co-design and work on projects, we know the value this kind of virtual partnership is having.
One of the next questions came from Park Slope, Brooklyn. “How do you speak out about something if you’re afraid to do so?” Secretary Clinton, a woman with a wealth of experience in such matters said, “If you want to speak out, you have to be well prepared. Have an informed opinion. You have to know well what it is you’re trying to say. And if you’re literally speaking out, you have to practice. Think about your audience. Have a friend to cheer you on. Don’t stifle it.”
A student at Seattle School for Girls, participating via Skype, wanted to know about how to get more women into STEM careers. Chelsea noted she was “obsessed” with this topic. She shared that when she got a computer in 1987, 36% of computer science graduates were women, and today the number was 16%. Chelsea went on to say, “The answer really is to ensure girls stay engaged in Stem or Steam, that they see real life examples of what girls can be. Helping girls gain the skills to fuel their imaginations is something we’ll be better off for.”
Finally, a young woman talked about the ceilings that she faced as an undocumented immigrant from Croatia. Both Secretary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton were moved by her words; Chelsea said, “There is nothing worse than being disempowered. You change that. You are speaking out every day. I hope you’ll join other organizations convincing the House to take this up. We need to keep the United States marching towards a more perfect union, and our status as an immigrant nation is a crucial part of that. Thank you for making yourself less invisible.
You can continue to be part of these conversations. Watch the recap of the event and take the opportunity to submit your own questions. You can also share your thoughts and experiences on Twitter using the hashtag #NoCeilings. We welcome you to join in! Visit Skype in the Classroom, a Microsoft YouthSpark program, to learn more about how students can travel the world and meet amazing people without leaving their classrooms.
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