Firstly, apologies for not updating my blog in an entire year! Although I feel incredibly lazy for not doing so, 2014 has been a HUGE year for me, both professionally and personally.
As you may, or may not, be aware Skype in the Classroom is a big passion of mine. I began Skyping with my class in 2013 when I was thrown into the deep end… A classroom without 1:1 devices (shock horror!). Since then I have had my classes connect with numerous locations around the world including the UK, US, Sweden, Ireland and most recently Cambodia.
This year I organised and held Manor Lakes P-12 College’s 2nd Annual Skypathon. At the beginning of term 2 I created a lesson on Skype Classroom and away we went. We had teachers and schools signing up immediately and within a few weeks we already had 10 schools signed up!
School Council approved the event unanimously and notes went home, they were returned quickly by some very excited grade 3 students.
Last year my grade 3 class and Michelle Meracis’ grade 6 class were apart of the big event, this year however only my grade 3 class participated. I had the assistance of Michelle on the evening as well as another colleague Mark.
Students arrived back at school at 8pm and our first call was underway within an hour. We spoke with a school in Ireland, it was a Mystery Skype. Students took turns asking yes/no questions in order to guess the country each class was from. We then connected with our friends at Norbridge Academy in the UK and after that had a short 40 minute nap. Then we were up and Skyping with Canada and 6 different schools across the US. We didn’t stop Skyping until 5.30am, when 19 students and 3 extremely tired teachers made their way to their makeshift beds in the performing arts room. Students were collected at 8am and much needed sleep was had by all.
Once again my students were extremely excited to hear the accents of all the different countries we connected with, having a giggle every time somebody mentioned we ourselves had an awesome accent.
We kept parents and the wider community updated throughout the night with posts and photos on our class Twitter @3JessMLP12C.
I believe that #mlp12cskypathon14 provided my students with not only an authentic learning experience, but also a chance to explore the world from the comfort of their own school. And if we hadn’t stayed overnight, connecting with places such as the UK and the US becomes almost impossible due to timezone differences.
A massive thank-you to all of those who signed up to our Skypathon, my PLN for their support, Michelle and Mark for having as little sleep as I did and my students for being passionate and inquisitive learners.
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.
Yesterday’s Skype session was a complete success!
At 11.30am on the last day of term 2 3Jess eagerly awaited a Skype video call from @CCMercer‘s class in Nottinghamshire, UK. And it came right on time.
It was 2am in the UK, so the students began by telling us they were very cold and sleepy. They were having a bit of trouble with their webcam, so they switched it over and from there the connection was fantastic! Discussion quickly moved on to the location of our school and the current temperature. They couldn’t believe that it was winter yet still 12 degrees. My class were very excited and began asking many questions, including ‘What’s your favourite sport?’, ‘What do you do for fun?’, ‘What’s your favourite book?’ and ‘How many students in your class and school?’.
We learnt a lot about our new friends. We found out they have 300 students in their class, they were quite impressed with our 1600! They barrack for Manchester United and love Harry Potter. They learn French at school and wear a navy blue school uniform. They love to eat pizza and they have a class pet (dog) named Izzy. We even got to meet Izzy! We showed them outside our classroom window, they got to see the streets and houses and around our school. The students seemed fairly impressed.
There was a little bit of confusion when they told us they helpt the younger students at dinner time, but we soon figured out that they call lunch dinner in the UK. That caused quite a few laughs amongst all of us.
Our chat lasted 45 minutes, a fantastic effort by all of those involved! I was so proud of my students. They were all so patient and listened beautifully. When they wanted to ask a question they put their hand up and spoke in loud and clear voices. And there was never any fight over who was going to answer the questions being asked of us, it was if they were all in sync. Of course I had set clear expectations prior to the Skype chat, but their enthusiasm and behaviour just made the experience that much more rewarding.
Thanks to Class Six at Norbridge Academy, it was great to meet you! Be sure to check out their class blog!
3Jess can’t wait for term 3… Hopefully we can hold a 24 hour Skypathon of our own!