A teacher’s journey with Skype in the Classroom

Today’s guest post is by Iro Stefopoulou, English Teacher, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and Skype Master Teacher from Greece who has recently moved to the UK.  

The start of an inspiring adventure

In August 2013, while all my friends were enjoying the sea and the sun in Greece, I was spending the summer holidays in my new apartment getting ready for the next school year, trying to find new resources and ideas that would attract my students’ interest and motivate them. It was that summer that I discovered Skype in the Classroom. I immediately knew that I had struck gold and that this community would be life changing for my students and me as a teacher.

I started exploring the possibilities and was like a kid on Christmas day: Skype lessons, guest speakers, virtual field trips to places around the world and classroom projects and collaborations. What would that mean for my learners? How would it influence their learning experience? Could it transform the way students perceive the world? Would my students feel that they are part of a global learning community?

Going back to school that year, I was super excited about my new discovery that could virtually break down the walls of my classroom. I had searched the Skype in the Classroom lessons for days to decide where to begin, and settled on the Night Zookeeper’s lesson. I scheduled a Skype call to meet the person who would deliver the lesson and chatted with him for a while. I now feel really proud to call Paul Hutson the Night Zookeeper my friend as what he did for me and my students was unique, unforgettable and the stepping stone for what followed next.

During the rest of 2013, I used Skype every week. I started participating in global projects with my classes, making use of Skype in the Classroom to create a global environment for my students. At the end of that school year it was clear that my students had started thinking beyond the walls of our classroom and every connection or project they participated in was turning them into thinkers, leaders and doers. The borders of our small town seemed non-existent as we communicated in real time with schoolchildren from all over the world, doing various activities and projects together. Not only did my pupils practice their English (Greek is our first language), they also became citizens of the world, and learn about facts and problems concerning other communities, the natural world, traditions, customs and so much more.

Iro Stefopoulou's students on a Skype call

Becoming a Skype Master Teacher

Throughout that first school year of using Skype in my classroom, I met countless teachers who have become friends and mentors. One of them, Dyane Smorokowski encouraged me to apply to become a Skype Master Teacher. I had no idea what it meant at the time but I decided to apply because I had a passion for global learning and the vision for providing my classroom with more opportunities.

Becoming a Skype Master Teacher, and joining this amazing group of innovative and game-changing educator pioneers, has allowed me to develop as a person and as an educator. It gave me to opportunity to collaborate with teachers from around the globe on several global projects that had a great impact on my students’ lives and changed their perspective and understanding of the world. I also started sharing best practices with other educators at conferences and delivering online professional development courses through Skype.

After joining this program, in addition to feeling excited and proud to be part of this amazing group of teachers from all around the globe, I felt that I belonged to a family. I can proudly say that I belong to a family of like-minded educators with whom I can share ideas, best practices, collaborate on projects and help each other when needed.

Join the Skype Master Teacher Program

We are really excited to announce that the Skype Master Teacher Program is opening its doors to even more teachers. Teachers who have been selected as Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (MIEEs) can complete their self-nomination to join this program. MIE Experts are teachers work closely with Microsoft to lead innovation in education. They advocate and share their thoughts on the effective use of technology in education with peers and policy makers, provide insight for Microsoft on new products and tools for education, and exchange best practices as they work together to promote innovation in teaching and learning. The self-nominations are open until September 15th.

What other Skype Master Teachers say about the SMT Program

“The Skype Master Teacher Program is special to me because it is about people who empower and impassion me. If I have an idea that I want to try or a project that I’m experimenting with, I know I can count on my SMT tribe to give me input or jump in with me. They are the risk-takers and change makers who make me a better teacher, and help me grow stronger as an educator.” – Gina Ruffcorn, MIEE, Skype Master Teacher, Iowa, USA

“I love being part of the SMT Program because it connects me with an amazing group of passionate educators who inspire me constantly.” – Steve Auslander, MIEE, Skype Master Teacher, Indianapolis, USA

“Being a part of the Skype Master Teacher Program has definitely made me a better teacher. This is a group of inspiring, innovative and supportive educators who are doing game-changing things for kids. Skype Master Teachers dream big for kids, and support each other to make dreams and ideas, big or small, a reality.” – Stacey Ryan, MIEE, Skype Master Teacher, Kansas, USA