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.

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