As educators embrace growing trends and transform mobile apps into effective learning tools, we are interested to hear how IB teachers use technology in the classroom. We recently considered how gaming can be educational and now we hear how Skype Master, Steve Auslander, thrives on bringing his classroom to life with Skype in the Classroom.
Steve’s goal is to connect his students directly with experts and students from diverse cultures around the world. He is a Primary Years Programme (PYP) teacher at Allisonville Elementary School, Indianapolis, USA and is one of only one hundred Skype Masters in the world. Here, in the first of two articles, Steve shares how to let your student’s imagination roam free with Skype, with practical tips to follow in his next article.
So what exactly is a Skype Master Teacher? We are educators who have truly transformed our classrooms using Skype to connect to the world. The role is defined and given by Skype in the Classroom, an online community and there are several ways to use it – the potential is limitless.
Mystery Skype is an engaging game where two classes must use geography skills, logic, teamwork and problem solving to find the location of the other class before they find yours – all during a Skype call! Every student in your class has a role to play and works together by asking yes or no questions to help win the game.
With an international Mystery Skype, the first question might be “are you in the Eastern Hemisphere?” This is a great first question because it eliminates roughly half of the countries in the world. Then, based on this information, students will ask follow up questions to try to find the location of the other class in as few questions as possible. After finding each other’s location, both classes share interesting information about their school, city, state and/or country and this results in tremendous cultural learning.
Mystery Skype can often serve as a first step to creating a real and long-term connection between two classes. My students in Indianapolis played with Justin VonSpreckelsen’s MYP pupils in California. We learned that they were a class made up of 11–12 year olds who had completed their PYP exhibition last year. For this reason, we reconnected when my students began their exhibition projects and Justin’s students provided incredibly useful advice to my students. My students later commented on how the Skype call really helped them on their projects.
When our students are having fun with learning everyone wins!
Playing games together
Playing games with each other can make learning fun. Kahoot, is a game that will allow you to play with multiple classes as long as you share your screen on Skype. During a science and technology camp called Learning Under the Sun, the entire camp played an epic global Kahoot created by my friend and educator extraordinaire, Capetown’s own Steve Sherman. We played with participants from South Africa, Germany, Nepal and India and the students were completely engaged.
Guest Speakers and Virtual Field Trips
Via the Skype in the Classroom website, teachers can also register for both Guest Speakers and Virtual Field Trips. This opens the door for your students to experience learning outside of a book.
My students have virtually travelled to Antarctica to learn from scientist Jean Pennycook.
We’ve also reinforced our learning about the Native Americans of the Great Plains with a virtual trip to the Buffalo Bill Center in Cody, Wyoming. We have even been inspired to dream of ’out of the box’ solutions to real-world problems, during an interactive lesson with Maria and Patrick at the Bill and Melinda Gates Center in Seattle, Washington.
Last year, many of my students were motivated to study a specific issue for their exhibition based on a guest speaker’s lesson to the class like Lorna Campbell from the Beagle Freedom Project, Kaycee Freed from Girl Rising and many others.
As an IB educator, I want to provide my students with a global experience and I want them to become internationally minded. I want them to experience diverse cultures and at the same time be equipped with communication skills to share information about their own culture and local community confidently.
Sharing is the most powerful portion of the Skype experience, as it demonstrates to students that we as humans share more similarities than differences. This happened in 2013 when Skyping with pen pals in Akko, Israel. One of the Israeli girls approached the camera and randomly asked “does someone here like One Direction?” Spontaneously, my class began singing “That’s What Makes You Beautiful” (a very popular song at the time). A wonderful thing happened. The Israeli girls rushed to the camera and joined my class (well, mainly the girls) and a joyful sing along began between two 5th grade classes who speak different languages and are separated by thousands of miles and an ocean. It illustrated the point that kids are kids and music along with sports and so many other things can be a common denominator.
So as you can see, this technology has the flexibility to be integrated into any classroom for any unit of study and it can allow you to break down the four walls of your classroom and connect your students to the world! How different would the world be right now if Skype was used in every classroom? For tips on how to use Skype in your classroom, read Steve Auslander’s blog How your class could travel 30,000 miles in 48 hours.
Tell us how you use Skype or any other technology in your classroom by posting your comments below or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steven Auslander is a Skype Master Teacher, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, PBS Digital Innovator, Jacobs Educator and Class Dojo Ambassador. He can be reached on Twitter @sauslander and via email email@example.com. Find more information on the Skype Master Teacher programme and Skype in the classroom.