Back in November and December I worked with a small group of grade 5 students on the Flat Classroom Project. Our group acted as a Sounding Board for the project participants, and after finishing their part of the process, were very interested in actually speaking to some of the students whose work they had peer reviewed. Thanks to the wonderful Anne Mirtschin in Australia, within days of our request to find a class to Skype with, we were chatting about the project with a few of her high school students.
In order to get ourselves prepared for the call, we determined a list of questions in advance and wrote them on the board, along with the name of the person who would ask the question (and then answer the following question from our Skypers in Australia). We set up the room so that everyone could see the Smart Board, and so that our friends in Australia could see all of us. We left one seat open at the very front of the room, in the perfect position to plop down right in front of the webcam, so that each student can walk up, one at a time, to ask and answer questions.
We spent about an hour online with Anne’s class, learning a little more about how her students created their final projects and what it was like to collaborate globally on such a challenging project. They did an excellent job answering all of our questions and they also shared a few interesting facts about life in Australia (there was some eating of Marmite on camera for proof). Next time around I think we’ll have to prep a little hands-on demo for life in Thailand as well!
After the chat, the grade 5’s shared their thoughts about being able to connect with other students around the world via Skype:
- I enjoyed meeting new students because it’s fun to connect with other people from around the world
- I liked learning about another culture from a person in that country
- I liked learning about the process of how they worked with other students around the world – we could do that too!
- It was fun to be able to talk to them “in person” and to tell them that we enjoyed the project and to see if they enjoyed it too. I like to talk with other people better than writing.
- I liked Skyping with other students, not from our class, because then you get different opinions and you get to interact with different students.
- I learned a bit about Australia
- I learned how a Skype connection works, and to be a little patient because it has to travel very far!
- I learned that the FC students worked with more people than I thought they did
- I learned that they didn’t know that much about Thailand – so it was helpful for them to talk to us too!
- I learned about their school – they have very small classes.
This is just one of the many Skype experiences these students are fortunate to have in their regular classes. Last week I was able to watch Chrissy’s class participate in Silvia’s Around the World With 80 Schools project as they Skyped with a very small school in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Our students came in a little early and the class in Canada came back after school to get to know each other. Watching their mouths drop in surprise when they find out our school has 7 fifth grade classes and they only have 11 sixth graders and that our lowest temperature is around 15 degrees C, while there’s is -50 degrees F, was priceless.
Such a simple tool, with such a powerful impact!
Even though a Skype experience certainly can’t beat a real-life visit to Australia or Canada, our students certainly have a more in-depth, personalized understanding of their peers around the world than they would have without Skype. Making these personal connections is such an easy way to give students a more global perspective – and it’s free! What are you waiting for? Get Skyping!