A Skypathon @ Manor Lakes!

For the first 2 years of my teaching career I was fortunate enough to be involved in a 1:1 iPad program. In 2013 I moved from grade 6 into grade 3… And I had no 1:1 iPad program anymore. At first I panicked. I knew how to use iPads as an effective teaching tool, how on earth was I going to provide authentic, exciting and engaging learning experiences without them?

This move was the biggest blessing in disguise. I very quickly learnt to think outside the box, stepping away from my comfort zone. I got my hands on some iPods, we began using Twitter heavily, started to blog, explored new tech tools each week… And we ventured down the path of Skype in the classroom.

We dived straight in the deep end! Our first call was to a class from Norbridge Academy in Nottinghamshire, UK and it was absolutely amazing. My class couldn’t have loved it more and didn’t stop raving about it for weeks. Our students communicated in a question/ answer format and I found that I needed to do very little ‘crowd-control’, the conversation just seemed to flow. And it continued to do so for almost an hour, an amazing effort for a group of 9 year olds!

I came across Norbridge’s ICT Coordinator, Camilla, via @SkypeClassroom on Twitter. I soon learnt that Skype in the Classroom is a massive network of teachers keen to connect their students with other students all around the world.

Norbridge Academy were taking part in an overnight Blogathon, they were making Skype calls to all different parts of the world and blogging about them. After this call I knew what my next big aspiration was, to organise and hold a Skypathon of our very own.

I got the ball rolling straight away, drafting a proposal for School Council when I got home that night. It was enthusiastically passed and I soon placed the ‘lesson’ onto the Skype in the Classroom website. This allowed other educators to sign their classes up to our Skypathon. I had registrations almost straight away, many from the UK and the US, even one from Sweden and Argentina!

After a term and a half of organisation and planning, my colleague Michelle and I (and our classes) held the very first Skypathon of Manor Lakes P-12 College on a Friday evening. Students came back to school at 8pm and we were off! We had set up two Skype spaces so we could speak to as many students around the world as possible. We spoke to several classes in the UK and the US, a class from Ireland and some university students from Sweden. Our students were absolutely fantastic, even at the early hours of the morning! They were engaging in conversations about culture and education, music and art, food and landmarks.

We were keeping parents and other interested parties updated throughout the night via our class Twitter accounts, which led to other classes signing up to the Skypathon on the evening.

The students were incredibly excited to hear the accents of different countries and learn about the things that are important to those students as well as what school life is like for them. There were some very intriguing similarities and differences.

I believe that Skype has allowed my class to learn in a way that is exciting and authentic. They can put faces to names of towns and countries and have been told first hand what people eat and do for fun in these places.

Skype has shown me that there is always, always, always a way we can provide exciting opportunities for our students no matter what resources we are, or aren’t, provided with. It’s all about thinking outside the box.

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