Connecting Classrooms Around the World via Skype

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Yesenia Lugo is a 2014 UNA-USA Social Good Summit Blogger Fellow. View this post on his blog here.

Teachers around the country are getting back into the grind and looking for new methods to engage their students. One virtual learning tool that is transforming schools across the nation seems to come in the form of Skype in the Classroom.

Wendy Norman from Skype for Good, a Microsoft YouthSpark program and Mike Soskil, a teacher from Pennsylvania, shared how Skype is connecting classrooms, teachers and students around the world to provide real-world learning opportunities. Soskil shared how his students and those they are connecting with are getting to see parts of the world they may never have the opportunity to travel to or experience and learn more about each other’s cultures. He believes students learn to solve real problems in the community by facilitating global collaboration opportunities with students from around the world, bringing in experts to talk via Skype and setting up opportunities for teachers to learn from each other via social media platforms.

“Skype in the Classroom” was created for teachers as quick service to continually hear and share stories about teachers who began using the technology in their classrooms so that they could introduce their students to cultures and experts worldwide in real time. Launched in March 2011, Skype in the Classroom allows teachers worldwide to post ideas for Skype lessons, connect with other classrooms and come up with ways to collaborate action via Skype. Skype in the Classroom’s global community has more than 43,000 teachers and 2,400 lessons, as of 2012.

Out of all the other panels, this was the one that unexpectedly moved me. As I sat in the audience, I got a real genuine sense of the positive impact that Skype in the Classroom has achieved since it’s ignition. The way Soskil spoke about his students and their creativity for promoting a kind act for another classroom in Africa, was touching to hear. I almost teared up when he said his students came up with the idea of teaching students in Africa math, in exchange for Swahili lessons, after his students saw how the condition of the classroom in Africa looked vastly different from their own. The reason it moved me is because young children thought up the idea, not adults, and it’s the young children who are making a difference. In that moment, I thought back to my own childhood education, where of course that sort of technology did not exist nor even the idea for collaborative learning with other students half-way across the world was ever introduced to me. I hope this example moved another person to sign up for Skype in a Classroom and continue to guide these students.

I believe, we need to teach kids the responsible and incredible ways to properly use technology for social good. We should to be teaching them how to inspire each other and advocate better solutions to global emergencies. It’s our responsibility to teach the younger generation to be safe.

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