It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the impact digital technology is having on today’s educational landscape. In little more than a decade, the internet has changed the world that we once knew. The way we shop, travel, learn & interact with others have all been transformed by the web. For better or worse, the internet has made the world smaller. It has created an online world without borders that is now accessible to us all. Individuals and organisations can overcome geographical, cultural & logistical barriers which is proving to be significantly more time & cost effective. Time & distance are now no longer obstacles.
Web video conferencing has become almost routine in today’s world of global business and it is just beginning to break through into education. With very little hi-tech equipment required, only the help of a simple Skype account, classrooms are fast becoming exciting global learning environments.
What are the advantages of a global classroom?
Getting our students to connect and collaborate with other students across the world is becoming increasingly important. With an ever increasing digital world where businesses and organisations trade globally, it is vital that we develop our students into global citizens who can compete for these jobs. Not only that, but a simple and creative way to make your subject really come alive. It all comes down to having a limitless imagination. No longer do physical barriers exist. The questions you should be asking now are What if? And Why not?
What if you could connect your class to an Olympic athlete to ask what it what like to compete in the Olympics?
What if you could speak to a school in Florida about their personal experiences of living through hurricanes?
When you start to connect with real people, you can tap into real feelings. Books, websites and videos don’t even go close to providing you with authentic learning experiences like this. Then, when you’ve got real feelings from real people, I believe you start to create deep and memorable learning – a far cry from students learning out of text books.
So, how does it work?
There are 4 main ways to use Skype in the classroom (use the links in the paragraphs):
1) The easiest way to get your classroom connected to the world is to join the thousands of teachers who are already signed up to Skype’s education site. Here you can submit a request to connect with a class in a defined country, age group, or for a specific project/syllabus topic. Alternatively, if you’re looking for inspiration, you can browse the thousands of requests already posted and connect with a classroom that interests you. Once you’ve contacted the teacher and talked it over, you simply swap Skype ID’s and hook up at the agreed time with your classes – it couldn’t be easier!
2) If you’re not sure where to start with an international collaboration, why not take advantage of the new craze that is sweeping the Skype education community – a Mystery Skype! Here you take part in an international guessing game between two classes where your students use carefully crafted questioning to identify the location of the other school!
3) Thirdly you can browse the site for an expert guest speaker. What could be more inspiring than having a world class speaker talk to your students and extend the level of expertise that you can provide. There are lots of organisations and individuals on the site who are willing to speak to your students.
4) Lastly, the education team at Skype have teamed up with many partner organisations to take you on the ultimate field trip from the comfort of your classroom! No more risk assessments, cover requests and financial barriers to compete with! No you can explore the world direct from your classroom!
How has it worked for me?
Since using Skype in my own classroom it has transformed the learning experiences of my students. We have been able to remove the traditional physical barriers and begin to collaborate on a global scale like we’ve never done before. The two biggest projects that I have given my students the opportunity take part in have both been in Physical Education – a subject area that you would not normally associate with a live classroom-to-classroom video collaboration. For both of these projects I connected my classroom at Woodham Academy in Newton Aycliffe, with a classroom at Merton Intermediate School in Wisconsin, USA.
For our first project we conducted an international ‘dance off’ where we had groups of dancers on each side of the Atlantic dancing for each other live on Skype. Once each group had danced, the students scored and judged the technical aspects of the dance via their mobile phones on a free internet poll we set up. This enabled the students to see their results and feedback instantly. Due to the success of this project, we decided to extend the classroom partnership and try something even more adventurous. So, for our 2nd project we created a real global classroom with students from Wisconsin teaching my students how to ‘Jump Rope’ live via the Skype link – a truly global learning experience with the students and student teachers being over 3,500 miles apart!
Both of these exciting projects really engaged the students and created the X-factor that I’d been searching for. In the months afterwards, the students continue to talk about it and keep asking when they can do something similar again.
So, why not give it a go? You owe it to your students to try and make their learning experiences as fun and diverse as possible. Just imagine the possibilities of connecting your class to another class across the other side of the world, or an expert who can help teach an exciting part of your syllabus. If there’s one thing that using Skype has taught me, it’s that bringing learning to life and making it authentic, really does deepen the understanding from your students. And, not only do they begin to understand it more, they also remember it because it was fun.
When you think of it like that, what are you waiting for? Get your classroom connected to the world!