035: Living on the Edge of Chaos with Todd Flory

In this episode I have the pleasure to chat with Todd Flory. Todd is a 4th grade teacher from Kansas. He is doing some amazing work in regards to global education.

This was a fun episode as we explore the ins and outs of expanding your classroom beyond the four walls. This topic has been covered many times, but Todd brings a new level to the conversation as we discuss

  • How do you find another classroom to connect with?
  • How do you go about finding experts to speak to your students?
  • The benefits of mystery skype
  • What happens when a global learning moment ignites a spark for a student?
  • His latest project of doing a Skype BreakoutEDU
  • How to connect global projects to the standards

There are plenty of examples to get you started.

You can find more about Todd at the following


Check out the show and episodes on iTunes

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

Skype in the Classroom: Enhancing Learning For All

I have been super fortunate to be named a Skype Master Teacher. Most of what I do with Skype these days is dependent upon the amazing educators that I work with in my school who constantly challenge the status quo of education and how kids can and should learn. It is also used to connect with educators from around the world to help me learn and improve on a daily basis.

Regardless of how much experience you have with Skype, I think it is important that we continue to share ways in which classrooms around the world are connecting to bring real life connections to our learning.

There is something special about hearing the tones of a Skype call and that moment when the screen showcases a group of students or expert or author on the screen. It is at this moment when everyone involved knows they are part of something special.

I created a Sway to showcase all the ways in which I have used Skype in the past few years. This is just a small sample of ideas, but I hope that it will inspire or ignite new ideas in how we can help foster global classrooms.

What I challenge you, the reader, is two things

  1. Find another class to connect with and enhance the learning. Just looking forward to this week I know that my robotics teams will be Skyping with another team in Michigan to share their gracious professionalism to help a team with the robot. Later that night we will be Skyping again in India to help create some solutions to the village that needs help.
  2. Find an expert. Head over to the Microsoft Education site and find an expert. There are so many people volunteering their time to help students. We have 6th grade students participating in the Mission 8848 project to strengthen their PBL unit this year after being blessed to speak with Mark Woods and others last year.

We can no longer act like connecting globally is not possible. The world has come together to make it happen. It is easy. Start with a mystery skype and go from there. Check out the October picks and join the Skype-A-Thon, check out a tutorial, or explore the lessons.

Are you a GoNoodle fan? If you are nodding your head yes!, then join the GoNoodle Mystery Skype song and dance event.

Go out there, bust down those four walls in your classroom and get connected with the world. I promise you that once you give it a try you will be hooked.


What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (3)
  • Interesting (1)
  • Useful (1)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

One example of using Skype to enhance student voice and learning

By this point in time almost every single person has heard of Skype and video calls. Some have used it to connect with friends and family. Some educators have dabbled with connecting online with other classrooms whether it be a Mystery Skype or sharing of learning. Some have connected with experts(like professional editors for a language arts project). Some have not dabbled at all, but are intrigued.

Regardless of your ability and experience this is story to showcase the power of connections. Many would agree that face to face is always the best method to build connections. However, in this day and age that is not always possible and yet some of our most influential people in our lives are ones we only meet online.

I would like to share a story to promote the use of Skype and work to build those connections with all the amazing people around the world.

Recently, Microsoft hosted a Skypeathon where classrooms connected with others from all over the world to try and reach 1,000,000 virtual miles of interaction. It was a 24 hour event that reached over 3,000,000 miles.

There was one Skype session that we were lucky to schedule with Margo Day, VP of Microsoft Education. This was a session where instead of figuring out locations we talked about embracing student voice and empowering our voices to lead by example. We were not real sure what to expect, but we gathered members from our Iowa High Five student voice group and allowed them to ask questions and learn from someone who has made an impact on so many people.

As an adult and educator I learned a great deal from the message Margo provided. It was one of the best Skype calls we have ever had(and we have had many this year). Here are couple notes I jotted down.

  • every person should be able to contribute to the learning environment
  • students should be working together in groups where students are not in the same place/location to understand what it takes to work with a variety of people
  • nobody works on anything alone anymore
  • you need to find a sense of who you are
  • everyone should have some experience with writing code
  • I don’t know what I can’t do…..I don’t know how high is too high!

Besides my learning, there was something even more powerful than a tall, bald, ugly guy sharing his insights. An amazing 6th grade student, Isabelle, shared the following reflection that showcases the power of learning from others, flattening our classrooms walls, and doing all we can in schools to help connect students with amazing people like Margo. Check it out below and if you want to watch the session you can click the recording here.

Isabelle, 6th grader at Bettendorf Middle School

I feel that the Skype call really helped me think about my voice. There were answers from Margo that really helped me. When she was talking about exploring, and trying to find out what she can’t do it made me think, “What is so bad about failing?” For some reason I’ve been afraid to fail my whole life, but why? I just didn’t know the answer to this question, and still don’t know the answer to it. Also, when she was talking about our teachers picking us for Student Voice because they think we have a voice made me feel good on the inside. It actually made me feel more confident with my voice, like I have something special out of 7 billion people in the world that I didn’t know about. When Margo was talking about kids all over the world not having a voice made me upset. There are so many missed opportunities that our education is missing out on because the children who do have a voice are looked down upon. Some people think that kids are just little humans that are always in their own little world. The truth is we’re not.

I really like Sammy’s answer to Margo’s question which was, “ What does student voice mean to you and how do you apply that to school?” Sammy answered that question by talking about listening to other people’s opinions before immediately just auguring back. It really just shows how much of a voice students can really have. Also, Margo was talking about college, and how we need to find ourselves before going to college. This made me think about what new things I should start exploring to help me figure that out. My mother told me that I need to start thinking about what I want to do for college. Of course my answer was, “Mom! I’m only twelve I have six more years until I go to college.” This video helped me realize that I should start exploring now because there are so many things out there that are out of my comfort zone. I have always been into drawing, so I might try and do that for college. There are also a lot of possibilities in this world and I might like something better than drawing. If Margo never explored science and technology then everything would be different. The students who Skyped with Margo listening to her message might be doing something different now or in the future.

The message that I got from this Skype call was very uplifting and made me think a lot. The answers that I got from this call will stick with me for awhile. It helped me think about my voice in a very different way and even think about myself in a different way. This is something I help will pass on to other students in the future. 

How have you used Skype? What are ways you have flattened your classroom walls? In what ways have you leveraged technology to enhance student learning? I would to learn from you and hear stories like Isabelle to showcase and share with other educators who need examples of the power to connect with others. Sometimes we just need a little encouragement to push our comfort zones.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (1)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

Literacy Across the World

Once again, the power of Skype has come through in our classrooms allowing students to gain a stronger connection with people literally on the other side of the world.

Sue Owen is another one of our outstanding educators who has really pushed the envelope with project based learning. Sue is one of our sixth grade language arts teachers who was able to connect her students with students from Indonesia. This was possible by her staying in contact with one of her former student teachers who is now located in Indonesia.

As Sue shared as we talked about the project and how it came to be she said,

In reconnecting with my student teacher of last year, Cady Windish, who is now a teacher with the Peace Corps in Indonesia, I learned that her school is in desperate need of free reading books for the students. When I plan my Language Arts projects, I always like to incorporate service into the plan so my students not only make a connection with the world, they make the world a better place. The connection between my students and those in Indonesia seemed like a perfect fit! In sixth grade this year, I’ve really focused on students using strategies to understand the elements of literature, so this was incorporated into the project as well. I invited Rachael Dierckx(another language arts teacher in our building who is amazing) to join me with this project, and she readily agreed.

Our students each brought a gently used or newly purchased book from home and read it during Language Arts. They then created a plot diagram, so I could make sure they understood the elements of literature in the novel. Once they were good to go, they summarized the novel, and then created a storyboard, which would be used later in Digital Literacy with Connie Jeschke (yet again, another amazing educator). Connie had the students use their storyboards and WeVideo to create books trailers, which will be sent to Indonesia as well to entice the students to read our books.

At this time one of my guided reading groups was reading The Limit, which is all about staying within your budget; so they investigated the cost of shipping our 100 pounds of books to Indonesia and reported that it would cost $1200! As a class, we brainstormed ideas to raise the money and decided on a garage sale at BMS. Students solicited donations, and then we held the sale May 15 and 16. Students did the marketing for the sale by making flyers using Microsoft Publisher and worked both days to raise $1347.50!

Last night 35 students returned to school at 7 p.m. to Skype with the Indonesian students and let them know the books are coming. The thing that made the biggest impression on my students was when we asked an Indonesian girl if she could have anything in the world what would it be. Her answer was books.

Hopefully you see that using Skype was the perfect way to solidify all the hard work the students put into their class work and service work. Skype allowed them to see the students and share the good news. Once again, we used Skype in an innovative way to showcase to students that the world really is a global village where we can all connect. It was not used to just talk, but it allowed the students to strengthen their connection with people. It allowed students to see who they were going to be able to impact.

My favorite highlight of the night was when the students from Indonesia sang us a song. It started with a few, then all of them were singing and the next thing you know our students were clapping. It was a powerful moment where people were able to connect from opposite sides of the world.

After the Skype call we found out the song was called “Sakitnya tuh disini” by Cita Citata. It is a very popular song in their country and is a type of music called dangdut.

I am so proud of the students and the teachers who worked to make this happen. Students were given a chance to not only learn, but to develop an understanding of what it means to be human and to provide service to others. The learning was authentic. Students volunteered their time and weekend to running the garage sale. Students came back to school to Skype. Students were doing so many amazing things that they often don’t get credit for and none of this would have happened without the educators involved.

Below is a Sway. Scroll down through it all. It contains everything from the project including pictures, project plans, Skype recording, and book trailers. If you have not used Sway you need to give a try. It is one of my favorite presentation tools out on the market right now and it is free!

If it is not working, then here is a link to view it all

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (5)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

What makes a person more than a number? Skype With Holocaust Survivor Using SP3

A few weeks ago we had an amazing opportunity to bring learning to the real world context. Our 7th grade students were able to experience a chance of a lifetime by speaking with a Holocaust survivor. Many of us have been taught this time period, have studied the unfortunate events, and many of us still teach this time period. For one hour we were able to speak with someone who lived the events and was willing to share with us.

This event started with a project created by Jessica Blaum. She is a language arts teacher who, along with the seventh grade language arts and social studies team, launched a project called “Every Life Counts.” The driving question, “What makes a person more than a number?” asked students to look beyond the statistics of the Holocaust at how real lives were affected by those events. Students chose an individual affected by World War II and conducted research on that individual’s life, including reading personal accounts of Holocaust experiences, in order to create a memorial that would reflect that person’s individual experience. Many students chose to research Holocaust survivors, and one student stumbled upon a survivor, Magda Herzberger, who had posted her contact information on her website. The student sent. Ms. Herzberger an email with some questions for research. Ms. Herzberger was not only kind enough to Skype with the student to answer her questions; she also freely offered her time to speak about her experiences in detail with our entire seventh grade over Skype.

Below is our first time Skyping with Ms. Herzberger. This was a chance for the student who reached out to her to connect for a bit to develop her project. We then scheduled another Skype session with Ms. Herzberger for everyone to hear her story.

When we were ready to Skype with Ms. Herzberger we had to use our cafeteria to house all 300+ students. Now, there is risk in this type of activity because that many middle school students squeezed into one location at the end of the year is just asking for trouble. However, despite some technological glitches the students were silent and well behaved. Despite some accent and lag in wifi we were able to hear her message and she was able to grab their attention.


It is at this point in which I have to state my love for the Surface Pro 3. Had it not been for the SP3 this would never have happened. Our school is not equipped with the technology to Skype in our cafeteria. I was able to use the SP3 and the wifi dongle to make this happen. I plugged the HDMI cable into the project, connected my SP3 to the projector and we made it work. Thank you Microsoft for creating a product that allowed students to capture a story before it is lost forever. Due to our wifi having issues our video did freeze so I will not be sharing the video as it is not worth it to view, but the video above with will give you some insight. However, we do not have all the powerful details of her journey, but she has written many books in which you can learn about it all.


After this session and being able to process what she shared Ms. Blaum connected the dots with the students. SThere were some big takeaways from the Skype session. When students were reminded that having this experience is very unique in that in about 10 more years there will no longer be any more survivors that really made them think. They had reactions like, “I never even thought of that.”

Additional reactions were the difficulty in understanding her as she has a heavy accent. This is a great learning opportunity, but does make the listener really focus and key in on words. The students that found that frustrating were also the same ones who realized it was very cool to listen to someone who was actually there and experienced these events.

Another idea that was brought up that I think is vital for student awareness is the connections they made with media. Students seemed to take away what she said about how no book or movie made about the Holocaust accurately captures how horrible it truly was.

In closing this was a powerful moment brought to the lives of students because of technology. Technology is never the answer, but when we have powerful learning moments that can be bridged with the use of technology, then we have something valuable. Without internet and Skype students would not have been able to make this happen. We thank Ms. Herzberger for sharing her story and for everyone who was flexible to allow this event to take place.

You can learn more about Magda on her website: http://www.magdaherzberger.com/index.html

I encourage you to read her book, Survival, which is her atu



What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

Book Review: Madonnas of Leningrad and Skype with author

From Amazon.com

Bit by bit, the ravages of age are eroding Marina’s grip on the everyday. An elderly Russian woman now living in America, she cannot hold on to fresh memories—the details of her grown children’s lives, the approaching wedding of her grandchild—yet her distant past is miraculously preserved in her mind’s eye.

Vivid images of her youth in war-torn Leningrad arise unbidden, carrying her back to the terrible fall of 1941, when she was a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum and the German army’s approach signaled the beginning of what would be a long, torturous siege on the city. As the people braved starvation, bitter cold, and a relentless German onslaught, Marina joined other staff members in removing the museum’s priceless masterpieces for safekeeping, leaving the frames hanging empty on the walls to symbolize the artworks’ eventual return. As the Luftwaffe’s bombs pounded the proud, stricken city, Marina built a personal Hermitage in her mind—a refuge that would stay buried deep within her, until she needed it once more. . . .


 To be frank, I read this book solely because I wanted to join our local book club so I could interact with our adults in terms of reading. I saw the title and was not that thrilled. However, from the start I was hooked. I do not typically read this. Historical fiction is last on my enjoyable reads. The two stories of Marina dealing with losing her memory to dementia and flashbacks to the Seige of Leningrad was amazing. I cared so deeply about both storylines in two completely different ways. The dementia aspect I cared about as my family and friends all know somebody affected. The description was so real. The other storyline of the past with her working to preserve all the art from The Hermitage was really interesting. It is a part of history many don’t talk about, but was a tough period that lasted a long time and was quite brutal.

For the bookclub we Skyped with the author and it made the story even more amazing. She talked about how she pieced the story together like a quilt where she cut all these little snippets of ideas and before her own eyes the story came together. She was working with the character based on her grandmother and watched a PBS special on the seige. She talked about it is risky to write between two time periods because one is interrupting the other story and can be a distraction when the reader really likes one storyline.

Her advice to students interested in writing is to write what you know. She would not talk about her current book she is writing because she said it is not good to do so. When discussing her research for the novel she did discuss how women survived more than men because they naturally have more body fat.
Overall, I am so glad I read this book. It really opened my eyes to many new things. This is a book I would never have picked up in a million years and because I have I have a great reading experience under my belt. Please check this book out.
What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)