In 2017.. you need to get on Skype in the Classroom!

I think we are all agreed that there will be plenty going on in the world during 2017.  From continuing Brexit talks to Donald J Trump becoming President of the United States ! Meanwhile at school we continue to strive to deliver top quality education to students in a world where we expect technology to be readily accessible to all of our students.  Of course as a school we have deliver this vision in a world of ever reducing school budgets.

So moving forward into 2017 how can you give your students the opportunity to see this bigger world around them? and as a teacher how can you deliver that to the classroom?

Well my tip for 2017 is simply if you have not yet experienced Skype in the Classroom  then you are missing opportunities for yourself and your students.

So what is Skype in the Classroom you ask?  Well put simply its free and allows you to connect your classroom to numerous schools around the globe, or join virtual field trips (like the British Antartic Survey). This allows your students to interact with peers from different continents or find out more about different cultures or simply be part of a field trip to do with a topic you might be studying.  All you need to deliver this is a webcam and a set of speakers for your computer!.    Now if your a primary school or indeed a secondary school receiving broadband through a Local Authority you might need to speak to IT support and make sure that the school firewall is set to allow Skype !

The next stage is to get yourself on Skype http://skype.co.uk  and download it and create yourself an account.   Then finally goto the Microsoft Educator Community  http://education.microsoft.com and create an account here. The Microsoft Educator Community or MEC is the gateway to Skype in the Classroom for teaches. It is here you can arrange a field trip or simply connect with other schools around the globe.

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Join field trips from the Educator Community is easy.

 

Now lets jump back in to the classroom and take a look at how a school can get into Skype in the Classroom.   During this years Skypeathon (29th – 30th November)  Old Buckenham High School used Skype to connect with a school in Africa.   As always you tend to find primary students are always a bit more forthcoming when they have a camera pointed at them, than secondary students!    So we arranged a time through the Educator Community with the school in Africa, and using a cheap Microsoft LifeCam we connected with the students.

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As you can see a simple webcam connected to a PC working through the whiteboard can bring the classroom to life.

Headteacher Andrew Fell led the conversation with students soon getting over there ‘nerves’ to start asking questions.  In Norfolk in November the temperature was a barmy 8 degrees, however in Africa its was more like 38 degrees at the time.   This I took for granted but the students were amazed at!    The discussion then took the shape of talking about the sorts of food they eat, the types of things they do after school and also do they play X-Box!

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The lesson last for 45 minutes and very much 90% was driven by the students themselves (as I say as soon as they lost the nerves and realised they were talking to other humans!)    For the school this was just dipping its toe in the water with Skype, but Andrew Fell has committed to embed these activities in the school curriculum to open students eyes to the outside connected world more.

Now this is where I need to confess,  I never have got into Skype that seriously before this years Skypeathon!   However having seen it in action, having seen how engaged students can be, having seen what value it can bring to students in the classroom to expand their horizons – Skype should really be in every classroom!

There also opportunities for teachers to use the Educator Community to get on the pathway to becoming a Skype Master Teacher ! So if you want to be a lead practitioner for Skype in your area this could be a great opportunity for you!    We have some amazing Skype Master Teachers already who are well worth a follow on twitter  these include Ysgol Bae Baglan’s  Paul ‘Lanny’ Watkins  @Lanny_Watkins  and Cornerstone Primary’s Henry Penfold @penfoldno1

 

During the Skypeathon schools around the globe travelled more than 10 Million miles during the two days.    Of course there will be another Skypeathon in 2017 but Skype in the Classroom is available 24/7 through the Microsoft Educator Community.

So I finish with my original statement, there is alot going on in 2017, so why not get on Skype in your class, pair up with a class in America and get those students thought on changing president,  or join a field trip to look at penguins in the Antartic – the world is out there and available from your classroom with Skype.

So remember its not just a secondary school thing, primary students feel at home and are certainly not shy in asking questions, so check out the video below from this years Skypeathon.