Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reflecting on a Robbery

The Robbery
On Friday morning I was going on vacation for a little over a week. Planning ahead, I packed my car on Thursday night. In my car I put my suitcase and my computer bag that contained my computer, iPad, Teach Like a Pirate book and some other important papers pertaining to teaching. I ran out late on Thursday night, parked my car in my driveway like normal, and ran inside with my hands full.

I don't remember locking my car when I went in the house, but out of habit I figured I did. However, my key fob's battery had been dying and the 'lock' button would only work about half of the time and the unlock bottom wouldn't work at all. By my account, I live in a very safe neighborhood....

I woke up early on Friday, looked around for my purse and when I couldn't find it, I figured I had accidentally left it in my car the night before. As I approached my car I realized it was unlocked. I opened the door and knew immediately something was wrong.....No suitcase on the back seat.

Dumbfounded I looked to the right of my car to see my suitcase totally dumped out in the grass. Everything that you would pack for a trip, clothes, toiletries, etc had been strewn about throughout the yard. And one last thing: Overnight, it had rained so everything was nice and wet.

For a millisecond, the thought (and image!) of two raccoons opening my suitcase with their tiny little hands entered my mind - it really did! I thought maybe I left my suitcase outside my car...but how did it get ten feet away? How did it get opened? How was it dumped all over the yard??????

I actually remember saying "Stop being naive! You were robbed!"

As I began sifting through everything I noticed that not only was my suitcase emptied out, but my purse was too. I found my checkbook, make up, etc all soaked in the grass. As I started putting everything in the suitcase to get it out of the rain, this terrible knot formed in my stomach.

I started to panic........

Remembering that my computer bag was on the floor of the backseat.....

I ran back to my car....

Opened the door.....

To find my computer bag with everything intact untouched where I had left it!

I know it sounds silly, but to me, the most important thing in the car was in that computer bag. I don't have as much saved as I should to cloud sources, and I still have a lot of files on flash drives or on the hard drive of my computer. If the thief would have taken my computer I would have been crushed, but it was spared....

So I returned back to the heap of my soaked belongings elated! I figured the theif/thieves wouldn't want to take anything that could be traceable like my Mac or iPad, but still I couldn't believe it was sitting untouched where I left it. I figured I could wash the clothes, dry out my suitcase, etc. but I couldn't replace all the hard work that was contained in that silly computer bag!

As I began scooping up everything, I did notice something important missing:  my wallet.
At that point, I was mad at myself and blamed myself for leaving the car unlocked and leaving my purse in the car. I knew it would be a hassle canceling credit cards, getting a new license, etc. BUT I HAD MY COMPUTER!

Lesson # 23 - Don't leave belongings visible in your car and lock your car doors :)

The Reflection:
Like anything in life - even when something bad happens - try to look at the positives of the situation.

Usually when I'm faced with a big decision or something happens where I need to reflect, I like to make a Pros and Cons list. I actually write down the pros and cons and reflect on each one. Here's my pros and cons list as I reflect on this robbery:

As you can see the Pros doubled the Cons so although I'm not happy the situation occurred, I can be at peace with the situation.....

Lesson # 24 - Reflection is not only important in teaching, but in all aspects of life. 

Lesson # 25 - Look for the silver lining in every situation! 

Teaching Connection:  Remain Calm
In the teaching profession, there will be times when you feel like I did on Friday morning. In the span of just a few minutes I felt:  Naive, Dumbfounded, Frustrated, Scared, Anxious, Elated, Lucky and Overjoyed! When faced with situations like this, try to remain calm, in control and level headed.

I had a situation occur last year in class that scared both my students and myself. After the situation was over and the students and I had time to reflect together, one of my boys paid me the best compliment I could have asked for. He said, "Ms. Kress - no matter what happens you always stay so calm."  Now, I know that's not always true, but over my seven years in the classroom I have worked on being more calm - no matter what happens. I can't say that I've mastered it - but the students obviously realize when you're in control and when you're not in control.

Many times, the students will channel your emotions. For their sake and yours, try to remain calm!  Always be in control. Teaching is a unique profession where unexpected things happen everyday. The way you handle these situations will have a great impact on how the students view you as the leader in your classroom.

Lesson # 26 - Remain calm and in control. 

Teaching Connection:  Find a Role Model - Be a Role Model
Fourteen years ago my sister and I were driving through Wal-Mart's parking lot when we were broadsided. My sister, who was 18 at the time and a huge car lover, did exactly the opposite of what I expected someone to do when her precious car had just been hit: She remained calm. She made sure I was ok and the two ladies in the other car were ok. She called 911 and my parents. She may have been upset, but she didn't show it - SHE was in control!

Five years ago I was with my sister when we found that HER car was broken into. The thieves rummaged through her trunk and took some of her belongings, however she remained calm -SHE was in control. I remember her joking, "Well, now it looks like I get to clean out my trunk!"

My sister is one of my ROLE MODELS! I hope that when faced with difficult situations, I will remain calm and in control like she does. At school I have other colleagues who I look up to. They consistently remain calm even when the situation is difficult. It's important to find these role models in our schools and it's important to consciously try to be this type of role model for our students.

Lesson # 27 - Use difficult situations to model good decision making for your students. 

What do you do to remain calm and in control when faced with difficult situations in front of your students? Share your thoughts on this topic below in the comments or contact me on Twitter (@KressClass)  Now, I'm off to the DMV to hopefully get a new license! :)

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Communication is as easy as 1-0-1 (Remind101 that is!)

Joseph Priestly said, "The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate." I would assume, then, that we would communicate more if the means of communication is easy, free and safe.....ENTER Remind101

Remind 101 is exactly that - an easy to use, FREE and safe service that allows for one-way communication via text message or email. (In other words, teachers can send out messages, but they can't receive reply messages.) Also, no phone numbers or email address are exchanged in the sign up process. Teachers only see the NAME of the users signed up!

Sign up for teachers takes merely minutes and signing up for parents and students takes merely seconds! Click this link to get your own Remind101 account! There are several tutorials on YouTube about setting up anaccount.

Last year I only used Remind101 for a few weeks, but I really enjoyed knowing that I could communicate with my students and their parents in a quick and easy manner. Here are 5 Quick Tips when using Remind101.

1.) Try to get 100% participation, but you can't make people subscribe! Just remember who is not receiving the messages that you send out! Also, you may want to try to have parents set up their account during Open House. You can have the directions projected or pass out paper copies. This way, you can explain how you plan to use Remind101 and get as many parents/students on board before the first day of school!

2.) Just like everything in education: You can differentiate your messages by setting up more than one 'class.' When reading some of my ideas below you may not want EVERYONE to get EVERY messages. This is just an idea though. I had all my students/parents in one class and it worked just fine. Different classes works especially well if your classes have different homework assignments, etc.

3.) Like anything, don't overuse this great tool! You don't want to upset parents by sending out TOO many reminders.  After I started Remind101, I wanted to send out reminders all the time. I did try to limit myself, and I received great feedback from both students and parents. The only drawback for one parent is that she said she was charged for text messages and felt I texted a little too much. (Standard text messaging rates apply.) I don't remember sharing how to 'opt out' of the service, so be sure you share this with the parents. Here's the link to Remind101's opt out directions.

4.) Also, you may want to let parents know approximately how many times per week you plan on sending reminders. Once a week? Once a day? Approximately 10 reminders a week? You many not know this answer until you start using it, but you may want to set a limit for yourself so you don't overuse it.

5.) You can set reminders to be sent in the future. However, when doing this be sure to pay attention to AM/PM and the time that you set. Nothing would upset your students and their parents more than  receiving a text about homework at 5:30a.m. instead of 5:30p.m.

Now onto some typical and unique ideas of how to use Remind101 in the classroom.

After School Reminders:  *I typically would send out text messages after school within 2 hours of dismissal.

1.) Send reminders about homework or homework changes. ("Please complete the circumference tutorial on Sophia. Don't forget to leave a comment!")
2.) Send reminders about project deadlines.  ("Science Fair project is due on March 15. Keep working hard! I'm excited to see your project!")
3.) Send reminders about special papers that were sent home.  ("Don't forget to see the special message sent home today! Our school is in for a treat!")
4.) Send reminders about after school events ("Good luck to all students participating in the Drama Club performance! Hope you'll be able to come!")
5.) Send enticing reminders helping to start parent/student communication! ("Students, did you tell your parents about today's 'hairy' science class?")
6.) Send reminders about field trips. ("We will return from tomorrow's field trip by 3:30. Please remember to pack a lunch if you didn't pre-order one.")

Morning Reminders *I would only text 30 minutes prior to the school's start time.

1.) Send intriguing messages to get kids excited to come to school! ("What do water, a catapult, balloons and chalk all have in common? Find out today in math class!")
2.) Send 'mysterious' messages. I used this method the morning of Mystery Skype calls. If you don't know what Mystery Skype calls are you can read about Skype in The Classroom and Mystery Skype here. ("A mysterious location awaits our call. Where will we travel to today?")
3.) Send last minute messages.  ("Field Day has been postponed because of the rain! No need to wear your class shirt!")
4.) Send last minute requests. ("Do you have extra magazines you can donate? Bring them to class today!")
5.) Send good luck messages! ("Good luck today on the OAA test! Relax and try your best! We're all proud of you!)
6.) Send congratulatory messages! My favorite message this year was congratulating the students the morning of the last day. ("Students: This is it! You've made it to the last day. It sure has been a joy teaching you! I'm very proud of how much you've grown this year!")

Other uses:
1.) Send out random/interesting facts or questions dealing with your subject area. (Again, you may want to create a separate class for these types of messages.) ("Be on the look out for today's full moon! We've been waiting all month to see it!")

2.) Make up a game or competition! Give hints or clues via Remind101 messages. I plan on sending out similar messages to the ones below before I teach an important lesson on Bald Eagles:
Day 1 - "This animal is found near large bodies of open water."
Day 2 - "This animal weighs from seven to ten pounds and measures 3 feet from head to tail."
Day 3 - "This animal's lifespan is 20-30 years in the wild."
Day 4 - "This animal has a wingspan of about 7 feet."
Day 5 - "This animal is the national bird of the United States."

3.) Use it on the school level #1- Parents and students can sign up to get messages from administrators.  ("Thank you to all those who attended our Choir Concert! Great work 6th grade students!")
4.) Use it on the school level #2- Create a class of just teachers - Send out meeting reminders, etc. ("Don't forget tomorrow's staff meeting starts at 7:45 in Room 203.")

Remind101 is billed as a communication tool, but be creative with it! Use it to increase excitement of both your students and their parents! And, just one last thought:

Lesson #22: Communication leads to community. -Rollo May

Help build your community with the easiest communication tool out there!
It's as easy as 1-0-1  - Remind101 this is!

What are some ways you plan on using Remind101 next year? Please add to the list of tips or uses above by leaving a comment or contacting me on Twitter (@ArinKress)

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 22, 2013

EdcampHome - an awespiring event!

On Saturday, the first EdcampHome was conducted. In my opinion, it was PD on speed, or sPeeD, as I am calling it! Although I was only able to participate for a half hour live, the amazing potential struck a chord with me.

One of the great things about EdcampHome is that ALL the sessions are archived. Below are screenshots from the Session Brainstorm BoardSession 1 and Session 2. Click the links to gain access to the videos.

How can you look at the screenshots above and not be in total awe and not get inspired!  Sounds like another perfect made up word: Awe + inspired = awespired. I was awespired by the organizers, the moderators, and by every single person from all around the globe who participated. It was an amazing event and one that I was glad to witness!

I've really only been on Twitter for three months and everyday I continually am awespired. First, by the power of Twitter, then the power of Hashtags, next the insane list of Twitter Chats, the amount of Google Hangouts that the people I follow participate in, the amazing Podcasts available, the face to face conferences that the people I follow attend, the google docs that are being shared, and finally the amazing EdcampHOME that was conducted on Saturday. (I'm sure I could go on and on or others could add to this amazing list!) One must wonder if there is an end in sight? With technology and with the amazing minds using technology, the answer is a clear resounding: NO! Not only is there no end in sight, but the future looks extremely bright!

A few weeks ago I tweeted out a semi-serious, semi-joking question: Do other professions have organized chats like we do? For example: Do dentists have #flosschat on Mondays from 8-9p.m. or #cavitytalk on Thursdays from 7-8pm? After witnessing the amazing potential of EdcampHOME, I'm actually serious: Is education the only profession with such an organized system of communication and COLLABORATION?

Just today, David Theriault (@davidtedu), one of the EdcampHome organizers, tweeted out some very interesting questions about Twitter Chats. You can read the google doc here. The following are just two of the questions he posed:  'Are twitter chats a fad?' and 'What will be the death of the twitter chat?' It's a very interesting read and of course you can leave your comments.

I would love to see some research on the demographic of Twitter users whose main purpose is for professional collaboration. The collaboration that is occurring every day (much less every hour or minute) online is awspiring, and I feel blessed to be surrounded by such awspiring people who are along this ride together. 99.9% of the educators are RESPECTFUL, APPRECIATIVE and WILLING TO SHARE. It's a wonderful fraternity in which to be apart and I'm glad I joined. 

I'm someone that when I stumble upon greatness, I want to share it with others! I only saw about thirty minutes live but it was greatness in the making. It was genius really - a Genius (Half) Hour!  In such a short time I think all of us who witnessed EdcampHome were able to see the potential it held. Lisa Butler (@Srtalisa) has even suggested ParentCampHome - Oh the ideas are already snowballing! Each video in each session is about 30 minutes, so if you have time, take in some of the genius that was EdcampHome and keep the genius flowing!

This post really can be linked to my previous two posts entitled: I'm Glad I'm a Follower and Stuck on an Escalator.   EdcampHome reiterated why I'm glad I'm a follower of so many awespiring educators on Twitter, and I hope EdcampHome will help anyone who is 'stuck on an escalator' find a staircase to climb!

Lesson #20:  The future is literally in your hands to mold as we like. But we cannot wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow is now. -Eleanor Roosevelt

Lesson #21: The best way to predict the future is to invent it. - Alan Kay

I'm looking forward to what the future of Twitter and EdcampHome holds, not just for the educators who plan to participate, but mostly for the incredible impact that it will have for our students.

What do you think about this subject? Leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter (@KressClass)

Thanks for reading,

**A HUGE THANK YOU goes out to the four EdcampHome organizers - David Theriault (@davidtedu), Karl Lindgren-Striecher (@LS_Karl), Kelly Kermode (@coachk) and Shawn White (swpax) Your hard work will continue to pay off in the lives of countless students from around the world. Kudos to you!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Stuck on an Escalator (VideoBlogChallenge 1)

I love this video for so many reasons! My teaching partner and I show it to the students at least once a year, but it can apply to so many situations. (Hence why I used it as the first #VideoBlogChallenge video.)  If you would like to participate in the Video Blog Challenge, please stop reading this post and read the directions here!)

If you don't want to participate, feel free to watch the video below that inspired me to write this post. (You can skip the last 30 seconds of the video.)

Stuck on an Escalator link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrSUe_m19FY

My favorite part of the video is where the lady screams HELLLLLP at the 46 second mark. I feel like this is how a lot of educators feel with regard to using technology in the classroom. I feel they step onto the escalator and it stops. They aren't always sure how to move forward and they just want to SCREAM.

A better analogy perhaps is climbing a staircase. I spend a lot of time with my best friend's three children (Annabelle-6, Joshua-2 and Sophia- 10 months) Sophia is at the stage where she wants to crawl EVERYWHERE including up the stairs. I feel like the stairs can secretly speak to her or there's some magnetic attraction because she is drawn to the stairs constantly! 

Here's a video of her journey to the top which I will use as an analogy about teachers and technology. Pay close attention.


#1- Isn't she adorable? 

#2- Did you notice how often she stopped?

#3- Did you notice how often I said "Go Sophia!" and other encouraging words?

#4- Did you notice that after the first staircase, there was another one literally around the corner?

#5- Did you notice that she crawled up one step at a time? 

#6 Did you notice that at some points she got distracted?

#7- Did you see where she almost fell, but I caught her?

#8- Did you see how proud she was at the top?

#9- Do you see where I'm going here?

Ok, now on to the next video. Here's Sophia's older brother, Joshua. He just learned to walk DOWN the stairs by himself! Same stairs - different 'climb!' Again, use this as an analogy for teachers using technology in the classroom.

#1- Isn't he adorable?

#2- Did you notice that he still took one step at a time, but he reached the end MUCH quicker than Sophia did?

#3- Did you notice that he needed support so he was smart enough to hold on to the wall?

#4-  Did you notice that he was just as happy and proud as Sophia when he finished!

Finally, onto the oldest child, Annabelle.  Her friend, Isabella, makes an appearance too!

#1- Aren't they adorable?

#2- Did you notice how much quicker Annabelle reached the top compared to her younger brother and sister? (6 seconds compared to 35 seconds and almost 2 minutes)

#3- Did you notice the competitive nature of the 'race?'

#4- Did you notice that at the top they were ready to run again. Annabelle posed at the end as compared to Sophia passing out! 

We can use these three scenarios with different levels of learners in our classroom. And we can definitely use these analogies for teachers. I am surrounded by many teachers who, by their own admission, are not "tech-savvy." They don't know where to begin and sometimes they're thrown onto a staircase without much support.

I feel bad for these teachers, because many want to make it to the top! They truly do! I look up to these educators. They do amazing things everyday in their classrooms WITHOUT technology. But the want to learn more is there. There's pressure constantly to use technology in the classroom, but there are many roadblocks in their way. (They don't know what to use, how to use 'it' and where to start!)

Some teachers hear about a new piece of technology and 'sprint up the stairs' like Annabelle. Others are on a more steady climb like Joshua, and others are crawling along like Sophia and are so overwhelmed by the climb that they want to pass out!

However, I don't feel bad for the teachers stuck on the escalator like in the video at the top. Each and every educator is responsible to not get stuck on the escalator. There's no excuse to scream and complain until someone comes to push a magic button so you can ride to the top!

FYI: The 'magic button' is hard work and perseverance! 

HELPLESSNESS is one of the worst attributes we can model for our students.

So what are we to do about this situation? 

1.) We need to help our co-workers set goals with regard to using technology in the classroom.  (Why are you climbing this staircase? What's at the top?)

2.) We need to provide ONGOING professional development to help them achieve these goals. 

3.) We need to provide good examples and support so they can see what the possibilities are.  (Who do you turn to for motivation, encouragement and support?)

And just like our students: 

4.) We have to be patient with them!  We have to encourage them!  We have to reassure them!  

I hope I can be that person to the teachers in my school and district, and I hope you'll be that person to the amazing educators you work with daily. Remember, for many, they really do want to learn! However, for the ones who are stuck on the escalator - you have my permission to PUSH THEM OFF. Hopefully they'll fall onto a staircase and, most importantly, hopefully they'll decide to CLIMB!

Lesson #19: Learned helplessness is the giving-up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn't matter.  -Arnold Schwarzenegger

So, with regard to technology, who are you?  Sophia?  Joshua? or Annabelle? or are you 'Stuck on the Escalator?" What are your thoughts on this subject? Leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter (@ArinKress)

I know one thing is for sure:  Everyone that I follow on Twitter is my Isabella. You may get there before me, but I'll get to the top eventually! Thank you for pushing me to climb to the top and to tackle new staircases that I would have never discovered!

Finally, if you're curious as to why this blog is called "Hate Chalk" you can find out in this post. In education I feel as though I'm a mix between Annabelle and Joshua, but outside of school, I'm a Sophia.  Technology hasn't always been my forte, but I see the benefit for students so I strive to learn as much as I can to help my students grow.  I also love helping others, and that's why I felt compelled to write this post.

Thanks for reading! 

Friday, July 12, 2013

I'm glad I'm a FOLLOWER!

Many times we tell kids to not be followers. Don't follow the crowd! Make your own path!

We're trying to create leaders right?

Well, I'm glad I'm a follower......

I'm not sure why the Twitter geniuses chose the term "Follower" over other nouns. Can't you just imagine everyone in the room brainstorming the perfect word to portray connectedness. I imagine they all sat around a large table with their digital dictionaries and thesauruses trying to find the right word. So, I looked up synonyms for the word 'follower' and here are a few:


In certain relationships on Twitter certain words apply better than follower.  For example:

-Dave Burgess has pirate minions   (@burgessdave)
-2 Guys and some iPads are each other's sidekicks  (@techminock and @techbradwaid)
-The 3 Tech Ninjas have disciples  (@techninjastacey & @techninjatodd)
-Angela Maiers makes us all believers  (@Angelamaiers)
-George Couros, Adam Bellow, and Erin Klein all have amazing fans  (@gcouros, @adambellow, @KleinErin)

I even thought about tweeting Adam Bellow after his ISTE keynote:
"Hated the Keynote by @AdamBellow - who wears those shoes!" just as a joke but I knew I'd be swarmed with crazy tweets in reply. I really did love the keynote by the way - very inspirational!

If followers are present that must mean leaders are too. Because leaders and followers have a mutualistic relationship. See it says so right here:
Twitter allows us all to be leaders. Some leaders are more vocal than others, but that's exactly how it is in non-Twitter land and that's ok.  We all have our own leadership style and that's what makes Twitter so incredible. It allows for so many leaders to be connected everyday which is amazing because

So, to ALL those out there whose tweets I read daily (not just those I listed above)

I'm glad I'm your:
and mostly, I'm glad I'm your FOLLOWER!

Feel free to leave a comment or contact me on Twitter (@KressClass)

Thanks for reading!

PS- I think we should start the following hashtags:  #MM (MinionMonday) or #SS (SupporterSunday)  :) Thoughts?

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Do you like videos?

Do you like to blog?

Do you like challenges?

Well, you've come to the right place. Welcome to the First "Video Blog Challenge!" The rules are simple.

1.) Watch the video below.

2.) Reflect on it.

3.) Write a blog post.

4.) Share your blog.
            -Leave a link in the comment section below
            -Tweet a link to your blog & include #VideoBlogChallenge in the tweet.

5.) Read others' posts. Comment and Grow!

Hopefully, many educators will participate and we'll be able to share many perspectives based on the same video.

Let the fun begin!
Arin (@ArinKress)

Here's the first video:

Title:  Stuck on an Escalator
YouTube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrSUe_m19FY
*You can ignore the last 30 seconds of the video for this challenge.

If you've never blogged before, this may be a good way to start. It's not a competition, just share your thoughts!

Good Luck!

Windows to the World (Global Classroom)

This is my fifth and final post about my Skype in the Classroom journey. If you would like to read the entire journey, here it is!

1. My Skype Challenge
2. Skype is blocked???? (and other issues)
3. My First Skype Mystery - Figuring out how to Skype
4. Answer The Call!
5. Windows to the World (Global Classroom)

In case you haven't read the other posts, in just six days my students and I were able to Skype with 16 classes or guest speakers. Here's the link to a 3 min. video I made from our journey. Feel free to watch it: Around the World in 6 Days

It was an amazing ride and one that taught or reiterated to me MANY life lessons. If you are contemplating using Skype in the Classroom hopefully you will learn some of these lessons as well:

1.) We're very fortunate to live in the United States. Many of the teachers from other countries expressed their appreciation and excitement for being able to connect their students with students from the United States. They continually thanked ME for contacting THEM!

2.) People are kind and helpful by nature. Many of the calls were planned with less than five days notice. These teachers and guest speakers put together their presentation or activities out of the goodness of their heart.

3.) The teachers had one focus in mind as they helped plan and execute each call:  Their students The majority of classes we Skyped with had never Skyped before our call, and you could tell that the teachers main focus was to create a unique experience for their students. The teachers who had Skyped with other classes before, knew the potential and wanted to provide another memorable experience for their students.

4.) Kids are inquisitive by nature. The questions that were asked were always appropriate and respectful - I was very proud of all the students who participated!

5.) Many students around the world are learning more than one language. My students felt inferior every time we had to answer that we only study English and continually asked when they would learn a foreign language.

6.)  The world never stops turning! During the two weeks that I was on my personal Skype journey, my email never stop dinging and my Skyped never stopped 'bubbling.' It was fun Skyping with people from around the world at any hour of the day (Except for the time Ezekiel called from Zambia a little too early - Let's just say I didn't look too polished, but I still took the call :)

7.) We live in a global world, therefore we must teach in a global classroom.  Skype in the Classroom and many other free tools such as Twitter, Blogs, Edmodo, etc., allow teachers to 'flatten the walls of their classrooms' and bring the 'real world' inside. However, there shouldn't be a barrier between the two! The real world IS our classroom - we just have to seek out ways to open the figurative blinds of our classroom's windows so we can all view a WINDOW TO THE WORLD.  

Here's a picture from one of our calls:

The view from the windows on the left and right only shows a few hundred feet in front of our school. However, the 'window' in the center can provide a countless number of views for the students. We just have to create these windows, sit back and enjoy the view!

Skype in the Classroom allowed me to see the possibilities, and I hope to continue to create more windows for my students in years to come. If you are interested in creating a global classroom, there are many resources online and on Twitter. Search 'global classroom' and 'flat classroom' for many ideas on how to connect your students with others from around the world!

What "Windows to the World" do you plan on creating? Leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter (@ArinKress)

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Answer The Call!

Let me apologize in advance for the length. I contemplated, splitting this into many different posts, but I felt it all went together, so please grab a coffee, sit back and enjoy!

In education we have 'calls' that need to be answered all the time - Do you answer the call? 

In this post I will discuss the types of Skype 'calls' my students participated in during the last 6 days of the year. However, as you will see, the term 'call' is used as a metaphor and I'm very appreciative that so many people answered MY CALL and the experiences that were able to be made because of it!

This is the fourth of a five part series about Skype in the Classroom. If you would like to read about my full journey, click on the links below:

1. My Skype Challenge
2. Skype is blocked???? (and other issues)
3. My First Skype Mystery - Figuring out how to Skype
4. Answer The Call!
5. Windows to the World (Global Classroom)

Please click on the following link to see the video of our "Around the World in 6 Days" journey. The video is under 3 minutes and sets the stage for the rest of this post.


As you could see in the video, we participated in a lot of different Skype calls but they fell into the following categories: Mystery Skype calls, Guest Speakers, Skype Debate, Group Skype Call, and SURPRISE Skype Call. Below is a description about each category of calls.

Mystery Skype Calls       
(If you're unfamiliar with Mystery Skype calls I discussed the basic in the "My Skype Challenge" post.)
We did so many Mystery Skype calls that my students were pros by the end of the 6 days! They learned so much about geography, and I only wished we had more time to debrief and discuss each call. I did have the students blog about each call though to help them remember where we Skyped. In order to try to involve math, the students calculated the distance from where we live (Grove City, OH) to the mystery location. We were also fortunate that we could chat and ask each other questions at the end of each call. For example, one of my students spoke in Spanish to students in Argentina, students from Milwaukee demonstrated how they could each speak in their own Native American languages and my students and I were able to share our love of soccer with students from Central and South America.  Finally, the excitement when the students guess the right city is really exciting! Here's a very short video after we guessed one of the mystery cities correctly:

Without a doubt I would recommend doing Mystery Skype calls next year. This activity is great for Geography and Social Studies classes, but many other life skills are woven into this activity (Cooperation, Teamwork, Patience, etc.) Be creative to bring in the other subject areas too!

Bryan, Allison, Orly, Jennifer, Brian, Veronica, Marc, Arianna, Tai, Nancy and Lani - Thank you for organizing and facilitating the activity on your end. Thank YOU for answering the call!

Guest Speakers
We were fortunate enough to speak with three great guest speakers.

Louise Biddle (@loubiddle) is a 22 year old scientist who had just returned after traveling to Antarctica. She Skyped with us from England and put together an amazing PowerPoint presentation full of outstanding pictures she took of her travels. She also showed us three videos that she took of the terrain and wildlife she witnessed! It was great for the students in my class to be able to talk to a scientist who is currently working in such a foreign land. Louise plans on returning to Antarctica next year and I'm hoping my students and I can follow along on her blog.

Jon Tait (@TeamTait) is a great educator that I follow on Twitter. He created a Skype in the Classroom lesson that was highlighted on the main page for quite some time. Here's a link to his "Bring the Olympic Torch into Your Classroom" lesson. Jon explained what the Olympic Torch represents, the brief history of the Olympics torch relay, what the London 2012 signified and he shared his experience while carrying the torch. I know that I learned just as much as my students during this Skype call. He was kind enough to answer all of my students questions and even allowed some of my students to virtually hold the torch.

Kyle Maynard (@KyleMaynard) is by far the most inspiring individual I have ever met. I saw Kyle's amazing story last summer, and being the Anti-Bullying Coordinator at my school, I made it my personal mission to get Kyle to come speak to our students. Here's Kyle's intro video. It's only three minutes and you won't regret watching it!

Through a lot of hard work, a lot of support and help from our administration & PTA and a little bit of luck, Kyle not only came to Park Street on November 16, but he gave two 45 minute assemblies for the two different grade levels at our school. Let's just say, Kyle touched over 700 lives that day and I wanted him to touch my students' lives one more time!

So, when I discovered Skype in the Classroom, it was just natural that I thought of Kyle. Forty-five minutes wasn't nearly enough time to take in Kyle's entire message and ask questions, so I emailed his publicist, Joey, to see if we could set up a Skype chat. Kyle and Joey travel all over the world so I was afraid that he may be out of the country or have other speaking engagements. Joey replied within an hour and said that Kyle would love to Skype with us, but that he was visiting some victims from the Boston Marathon bombing that week. (If anyone could bring hope to the victims it's Kyle!) However we were able to arrange another day and time and voila....

Kyle Skyped with us from his home in Atlanta and he was his amazing upbeat self. He showed us where he plays video games and around his kitchen which has no modifications besides one stool. He was gracious enough to answer every student's question and he reiterated his message of NO EXCUSES!

I hate that I wasn't blogging last November because I would have already shared this story, because Kyle's story needs to be heard! I'm sure I'll blog about it sometime this summer! If you would like more information about Kyle or to schedule an appearance here's his site www.kyle-maynard.com. When my students blogged about their favorite call at the end of the year, many of them chose Kyle's call as their favorite. Most likely it was because he had come to our school, but I think all three guest speakers' had an incredible impact on the students! I would highly recommend seeking out some guest speakers to Skype with next school year!  Use Twitter or Skype in the Classroom's site to find amazing individuals to connect virtually with your students!

Louise, Jon and Kyle - Thank you for taking the time to share about yourselves and to touch my students' lives in the process. Most importantly- Thank you for answering the call!

Skype Debate
Although I hoped to schedule Mystery Skype calls and Guest speakers, a teacher from Belgium contacted me about setting up a debate centered around the pros and cons of Social Media. Each class prepared three arguments and we planned on presenting our points via Skype. Unfortunately this was one of two calls where the technology didn't cooperate. However, the concept behind this call was very unique and I know my students  learned merely by the discussion that we had before and after the call. I would recommend  setting up a Skype Debate in the future. Find an interesting topic and seek out a class! 

By the way, here are the arguments the students prepared:  Social Media Debate Pros and Cons

Bart - Thank you for the great idea and for all the planning that went into this activity. Thank you for creating an enlightening discussion for so many students around such an important topic- Thank YOU for answering the call!

Group Skype Call
This call may have been one of the hardest to organize because the original teacher cancelled, but the two teachers I ended up Skyping with were very laid back and we made it work on short notice. This call was unique because we did a "US has Talent," "Australia has Talent," and  "Japan has Talent" portion of the call, we sang the Cup Song with the Australian class and we demonstrated the game of Cup Stacking for the other two classes. We were able to talk for about 20 minutes about daily life and culture and the students were amazed to learn about the similarities and differences. All in all, this call went very smoothly which was amazing because each school that we Skyped with was over 10,000 miles away from us! Isn't technology amazing! If you're able to organize a Group Skype call I would recommend it!  It was great to ask a question and get multiple answers or perspectives!

Andy, thank you for arranging for this call and securing students on such short notice!  Jacqui, thank you for learning the Cup Song and for sharing so much about yourself and your students.  Andy and Jacqui: Thank YOU for answering the call!

I originally set up a Skype call with a teacher in Japan but she cancelled a few days later. Because this call was to during the Group Skype call with Australia and with my students' parents, I was determined to find a replacement school even on short notice. So, I went to the Skype in the Classroom site and Twitter. I messaged many other educators but only heard back from a few. One of the teachers I contacted was named Han. We added each other as a contact on Skype and chatted twice about setting up a time to Skype. Unfortunately, he wouldn't be able to Skype until 8:55p.m. ET, and I knew that the Group Skype call would be over by that point and the students would be headed home. I thanked him for his interest, but never deleted him as a contact......

This is when magic happened. Right after the Math is Everywhere Fair, I went up to the library to start talking to the parents about Skype in the Classroom. I opened my computer to get ready for our Group Skype call and here's the message I received from Han:

Hi. Ms. Kress,  are you busy in two hours?  My skype guest had to cancel with my 9th grade english learners in Japan.  Looking for another guest to answer some easy questions for about 15 minutes.  8:55-9:10 pm EST.

As you could imagine, this was quite shocking. The Math is Everywhere Fair was from 6:00-7:30. We had a 20 minute transition period before our Group Skype call from 7:50-8:40. Although everyone was excited, the night was long and the room was hot. I didn't really expect any students to stay for this call, but at the very least I would talk to them! So many people were able to Skype with me, I could stay the extra 15 minutes to help another teacher out. I quickly messaged him and told him that someone would Skype with his kids.

The Group Skype call ended promptly at 8:40 and everyone trickled out besides these four students and their families:
I was very appreciative that they stuck around for one last call that wouldn't end until 9:15p.m. Han sent me a few questions and asked that my students speak very slowly because his students were just learning the language. This Skype call was one of my favorites because you could tell how appreciative the Japanese students were to interview my students. Han told me afterward that this was the first time his students every spoke with native English speakers via Skype!

My students were very patient and kind and each one said that this short call was their favorite. After each Japanese student spoke, he/she would say "It's nice to meet you." and my students would reply, "It's nice to meet you too." With all the craziness of all the other types of calls, we never said that to any other class and that is one thing I want to remember to do next year! This call was the most authentic and one that I know these four students will never forget. One Japanese student even told one of my female students that he thought she was cute! Let's just say that his English is good and we all had a good laugh! Here's a 45 second clip - the audio and video feeds weren't the best - but it still worked!

So, if someone comes calling (even if it's unplanned and at 9:00p.m.) ANSWER THE CALL - you never know the impact you can have on others and the memories you can make in the process!  

Han, Thank you for allowing ME to answer YOUR call. It's a call my students and I won't soon forget. 

Each call was unqiue and everyone in attendance learned from every class or speaker. It was an amazing last six day of school and I'm almost finished with my Skype in the Classroom blog posts. However,  I have one last post to write in which I will reflect on the overall experience and the life lessons learned! Stay tuned. Please leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter (@ArinKress) if you have any questions about the different types of Skype calls we participated in.

What calls have you answered? What calls do you plan on making next year? Every call is an experience and opportunity waiting to happen!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My First Skype Mystery - Figuring out how to Skype!

This is my third of a five part series about my Skype in the Classroom journey. If you would like to read the entire journey, here it is!
1. My Skype Challenge
2. Skype is blocked???? (and other issues)
3. My First Skype Mystery - Figuring out how to Skype
4. Answer The Call!
5. Windows to the World (Global Classroom)

I explained what Mystery Skype calls were in the first post entitled "My Skype Challenge," but in order for me to create a 'mysterious' experience for my students, I had to figure out a mystery of my own first:

How do you Skype?

Yes, I know it sounds silly and yes, I know it's 2013, but after scheduling and confirming my first five calls, I still had never Skyped with anyone. Up until this point in my life, I had used Facetime, and I figured it worked the same, but I knew there would be some differences.

Here are the basics and some tips if you've never Skyped or used Skype in the Classroom before:

#1-  Sign up for a Skype in the Classroom account. Your user name and password will be the same when you log into Skype. Go to: education.skype.com

#2 - Download Skype on the computer you plan to use. Here's the link

#3-  Add the user you plan to Skype with as a contact (you can then chat with the teacher, Skype, send documents, etc.) It's much easier to chat than to email so I left my Skype on during the day for teachers to send me messages about our upcoming calls and I responded when I had time.  You can add a contact on the Skype in the Classroom site or on the Skype program that you downloaded by searching for the person's name. You'll both need to be contacts of each other in order to make the call.

#4- Be sure to do a test call with the teacher beforehand.   If possible, try to call each other at school so you can make sure the connection works.

#5- Change your 'status' during calls!  You can change your status to Online, Away, Do Not Disturb, Invisible and Offline. Because I had so many calls in a short time frame, a few times a teacher would message me during another call and this wouldn't have happened if I would have changed my status.

#6- Remember time differences! I would type in a Google search "Local Time in ___________" (Ex. Sardinal, Costa Rica) for each city to help me plan the times we could Skype. This was much easier than using a time zone map!

#7 - DO NOT put your location (city, state, or country) in your Skype profile if you plan on doing a Mystery Skype activity. Also, check to see if the other teacher's location is in their profile. If you have the projector on before your call, the students may see the other teacher's location and ruin the whole activity! There's nothing that will ruin the activity more than a student yelling: "His profile says he's from Michigan!" :)

#8 - When completing a Mystery Skype activity, be sure your students know where you live! Sounds humorous right? But this was one of the most challenging parts to the Mystery Skype activity. Students wouldn't know where our state was compared to to another city or state. It's very helpful to have multiple maps available and a map beside the computer/camera.

#9- Use the same map in both classroom! We only had access to a handful of computers so we had to use a lot of paper maps. The Mystery Skype calls that went the best were the ones where the teacher and I emailed each other maps beforehand. So, for example, when the students asked if we were east of Zanesville, we could look on the map to see how to answer that question.

#10- On the Skype in the Classroom page, you can search for Skype Lessons, Teachers, Guest Speakers and Resources. You can also narrow your search by Age Group and Language. Definitely use the search engine to search for any of your needs. If you're not sure how to use Skype in the Classroom for your subject area, use the search engine to find lessons for your subject. There are hundreds of lessons archived on the site that might give you an idea!

#11- Create Skype lessons. It's very easy to do and most likely you'll get some response. Here's the lesson I created for my 'Around the World in 8 Days' project.

#12- Search Skype Collections for some of their 'Showcase Lessons'

#13-Follow @SkypeClassroom on Twitter if you don't already! They are very active and tweet out great lesson ideas and guest speaker information!

#14- Use Twitter or any other form of Social Media to find great guest speakers. If you have an idea for a guest speaker (author, motivational speaker, etc.) who isn't already on Skype in the Classroom, try contacting them via Twitter to set up a call!

#15- Even though you may plan a lot beforehand, things still may go awry! The post, Um, Skype is blocked???, discusses some of the bumps in the road that I encountered this past year!

Lesson #18:   Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. 

I know it seems like setting up a Skype in the Classroom call/activity is a lot of work, but it's totally worth it! Here's another video from @JennRegruth. Again, if this doesn't hook you, nothing will! Great job Jenn and thanks again for sharing a glimpse into your classroom!

Hope the above tips help! Feel free to add more in the comments below or contact me on Twitter (@ArinKress) In my next post I'll talk about the different types of Skype calls we participated in! Stay tuned! Thanks for reading!

Um, Skype is blocked???? (& other issues)

This is my second of a five part series about my Skype in the Classroom journey. If you would like to read the entire journey, here it is!
1. My Skype Challenge
2. Skype is blocked???? (and other issues)
3. My First Skype Mystery - Figuring out how to Skype
4. Answer The Call!
5. Windows to the World (Global Classroom)

In my last post I talked about how I fell into the crazy world of Skype in the Classroom. The gist of the post was that after learning about Skype in the Classroom with only 2 weeks left of school, I decided to challenge myself to set up a call with a class or guest speaker from all 7 continents. Not only was this goal accomplished but I was able to set up 16 Skype calls during the last 6 school days after only knowing about Skype in the Classroom for 8 days.... Sounds good right??? Wrong....

Things happened so quickly that I did run into some road blocks along the way. The reason I'm blogging about this is because I want to make the point that sometimes things don't go perfectly, but great things can still result from it!

 Here were some of the bumps in the road:

1.) Skype in the Classroom and Skype are blocked at my school.  (Uh...that's a problem!)

2.) I tried to record our three guest speakers' calls with VodBurner and failed on all three attempts.

3.) I set up a Mystery Skype call with a student in South Africa but she found out that we were from Ohio before the call. I found this out 2 minutes before the call started.

4.) When we Skyped with Costa Rica, our video feed didn't work.

5.) When we Skyped with a freshman class in Belgium about Social Media, the audio didn't work.

6.) The teacher from the school in Chile cancelled the day before our call because she said their region experienced some really bad storms and their school was closed. (This was our only cancellation.)

7.) My contact in Japan got confused with the day because of the time difference and cancelled on me 5 days before the call.

If you are planning on using Skype in the Classroom, Google Hangout, etc., you may run into some of the problems above. For some of the problems, I had a few days to try to figure out a solution. Other problems I only had minutes, and for one problem, I didn't solve it until after school was out. Here are how I solved these problems:

1.) Skype in the Classroom is blocked at my school.  (Uh...that's a problem!)  I used my laptop and was able to access the Skype in the Classroom site and Skype this way. I'm going to request for it to be unblocked for this coming school year. I know it's silly, but be sure you've tested everything at school and Skyped with the teacher before your actual call.  Just because it works at home doesn't mean it works at school.

2.) I tried to record our three guest speakers' calls with VodBurner and failed on all three attempts. So, this is the problem I figured out AFTER the school year. If you've read some of my other posts, you'll remember that I flipped my classroom for about 6 weeks. I used Camtasia to create my Screencasts and I have NO idea why I didn't think about recording the calls this way. I know I was just overwhelmed with scheduling the calls because such a simple solution was right at my fingertips (literally icons away from each other!) Oh well....lesson learned!
                          (Camtasia's icon is the one on the far right! So close to a solution.....)

3.) I set up a Mystery Skype call with a student in South Africa but she found out that we were from Ohio before the call. I found this out 2 minutes before the call started. We still did the Mystery Skype with her from our end. Our students were really shocked when she said she was NOT located in the Western Hemisphere. (It was the first and only Mystery Skype we did outside of the the Western Hemisphere!)  Because she didn't have to ask us questions, we had more time to talk to her about her daily life, climate, culture, etc. It ended up working out perfectly!

4.) When we Skyped with Costa Rica, our video feed didn't work. Although it was really disappointing, we decided to chat with one another on Skype. Ironically, we were able to control the class a little better because we didn't have the noise from our class and the noise from the other class at the same time. The students stared at the screen intently as their answers came through. It ended up working out fine in the end! So, if you have a problem with video or audio, don't give up. At the very least, use the chat function to still complete a modified version of the call. The teacher and I emailed pictures to one another after the call so the students could see who they talked to!

5.) When we Skyped with a freshman class in Belgium about Social Media, the audio didn't work. Again, out of 16 calls, we only really had two issues with the technology which isn't too bad. This call was pretty awkward because the Belgium students could see and hear us but we couldn't hear them. Because we could see them, we decided to talk to them while they typed to us. This was one of the few non-mystery skype calls that we had planned so it was especially disappointing. We planned a Social Media debate where my students prepared three con arguments while the Belgium students prepared three pro arguments. Again, everything seemed to work out though, because I gave the students all 6 arguments printed out so they could read their arguments during the call and we discussed a lot with the students before and after the call. In the end, it worked out - it wasn't ideal but it worked.

6.) The teacher from the school in Chile cancelled the day before our call because she said their region experienced some really bad storms and their school was closed. (This was the only cancellation)  This call was supposed to occur on the very last day of school so there was no hope in rescheduling. Hopefully next year we'll be able to plan a call together. 

7.) My contact in Japan got confused with the day because of the time difference and cancelled on me 5 days before the call. This was the NOT the only issue that I had with time differences, however it was the only one that caused a cancellation. When scheduling calls be sure to find the current local time for the other city.  Because my mission was to Skype with every continent and this call was supposed to be a part of the Group Skype call after the Math Is Everywhere Fair, I became quite desperate trying to find a class to Skype with. I started messaging many other teachers on the Skype in the Classroom site and Twitter. It took me a few days to secure on a contact and two days before the event, I had everything set up. 

One of the biggest twists to this story comes because the first Japanese teacher canceled. I'll discuss this surprise call and the other unique activities that we did during the group Skype call in a few more posts.  Stay tuned!

Lesson #16:  When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! 

Lesson #17: Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. Step back from your current problem, don't get overwhelmed and try to look at the problem from a different angle (Ex. Vodburner/Camtasia)

Just like everything in teaching, you have to be ready to adapt at any moment. When using technology and especially for activities such as Skype in the Classroom calls, be ready for anything and everything.  Let me know of any situations like the ones above that you've encountered. Leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter at @ArinKress. Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 8, 2013

My Skype Challenge

This is my first of a five part series about my Skype in the Classroom journey. If you would like to read the entire journey, here it is!
1. My Skype Challenge
2. Skype is blocked???? (and other issues)
3. My First Skype Mystery - Figuring out how to Skype
4. Answer The Call!
5. Windows to the World (Global Classroom)

I'm going to start this post in the opposite manner than I normally do --  with the lesson:

Lesson #15:   We challenge our students everyday, why not create challenges for ourselves in the process.

Below you will read about one of the biggest challenges I created for myself this school year. I put a lot of time, thought, energy and effort into this challenge. Everything didn't go smoothly. There were times I wanted to give up. There were times I asked myself why I wasn't satisfied.  But I'm glad I went through with it! As teachers, I think it's important to challenge ourselves. We need to listen to the words we tell our students daily. 

Go for it! 
Never give up!
Keep trying!
Everything might not go as planned, and that's ok.
Be flexible and able to adapt.
Don't try to do it alone. Ask others for help!

What challenges are you creating for yourself as an educator?  

Before I write about the Skype call that occurred after the Math is Everywhere Fair, I feel I must give an overview of how I came to use Skype in the Classroom and the amazing journey my students and I took during the last six days of school.

Slowly but surely I started to follow more and more educators on Twitter, and slowly but surely I kept seeing posts about @SkypeClassroom or #MysterySkype. I'm always a sucker for anything mysterious and like Dave Burgess says about pirates, who doesn't love a mystery.

So I found this video on YouTube about Mystery Skype created by @JennRegruth. (The Mystery Skype was with @apratt5's class :) Here it is:

#1 - Awesome video - Who wouldn't be hooked after viewing that? I sure was!

#2 - I don't even like roller coasters and I want to ride Mystery Skype :)

#3 - I wondered how hard it would be to set up a Mystery Skype.

Here are the basics about Skype in the Classroom and Mystery Skype.   Skype in the Classroom is a branch of Skype and is an amazing FREE website that allows teachers and guest speakers from across the world to connect with one another.  During a Mystery Skype activity, students in two different classes (in a different city/state/country/continent!), Skype with one another, but each class’s location is a mystery. The students have to ask each other “Yes or No” questions in order to determine the other class’s location. At the end of each call, the students have time to ask each other questions and learn about one another’s culture and daily life. 

I thought this sounded like a great opportunity and I hated that I learned about it with only two weeks left in the year. I had tried so many new things with my students this year, that I didn't want to wait until next year to try out Skype in the Classroom. So, I went to https://education.skype.com, set up an account and started to work my way around the website. On the website you can search for: Skype Lessons, Teachers, Guest Speakers and Resources. You can also narrow your search by Age Group and Language.  

Random fact about me - I absolutely love soccer. If I'm not doing something for school, most likely I'm watching a game, reading soccer articles, etc. Soccer is the largest global sport - so I used my love of soccer to start contacting teachers from countries of my favorite teams or players (Spain, Argentina, Germany, Italy, England, Uruguay, Ghana, etc.) Then, I started emailing teachers from countries at random from each continent besides Antarctica. (Japan, Australia, US, Uganda, etc.)  

Something that amazed me very quickly with Skype in the Classroom's database was there was a teacher from every country I searched, but I didn't know how the message system worked --  I didn't know if I sent the user a message if it would just appear on the website and they would have to log in to see it, or if they would receive an email. So, I decided to try to send as many messages as I could. I really hoped to get at least one or two replies to set up a Mystery Skype.  

Well, within an HOUR, I had my two replies (Japan and Argentina) and I was hooked! Because I was emailing at 11p.m., the teacher in Japan was emailing me from school at noon. She told me that because of the time difference we wouldn't be able to Skype.  At first thought, Japan didn’t seem like a viable possibility because of the drastic time difference, BUT I was in the middle of planning for the “Math is Everywhere"  fair and...

Yes, I felt like angels were singing! How cool would it be to Skype with a school during or after the Fair with the parents in attendance! We could Skype at 8pm on Thursday evening which would be 9am on Friday in Japan! I went to bed that night with my wheels spinning....

I woke up the next morning to another email from across the globe. A teacher in Perth, Australia was interested and then...

GROUP SKYPE call!   I thought it was worth a shot to get these two countries to Skype with us during the evening event. Both teachers were on board, we figured out times through email and BAM a group Skype call with students from THREE CONTINENTS was scheduled within only 12 hours of signing up for an account!

Also, I don't want to leave out my Argentinean contact!  We emailed multiple times the next day to set up the Skype call and talk about our love for soccer (futbol). I was in awe of how quickly these teachers responded. They were just as excited to connect with students from the States as I was to connect my students with them!

My mind was racing as you could imagine!  Because I secured calls so quickly with classes from three continents (South America, Asia and Australia), I thought it was worth trying to Skype with someone on every continent before the end of the school year. I made it my own personal challenge to try to make that crazy thought a reality. I scheduled our first call on May 21 which gave us a total of 8 days left in the school year. So, I named our quest  “Around the World in 8 (school) Days.” I knew it might be hard to get someone from every continent, and I knew that my own school's end of the year schedule was going to work against me (Field Day, Drama Performance, Talent Show, etc.) but I thought it was worth a shot. 

Ironically, just EIGHT short days after I signed up for an account and a plethora of emails later, not only did I contact someone on everyone continent, but I was able to schedule Skype calls with classes  from the following 5 states, 8 countries and three guest speakers. (I was fortunate enough to be able to schedule a total of 16 calls in SIX days - and yes, one from every continent.)

Delaware, Wisconsin, Argentina, California, Iowa, Canada, Costa Rica, New Jersey, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Belgium and Chile.

Jon Tait- carried the Olympic torch
Louise Biddle- scientist who spent time in Antarctica
Kyle Maynard- incredible motivational speaker

As you can imagine securing the calls was the first step of the journey and just like every journey there were a few bumps in the road which I will discuss in my next post :) Stay tuned!

So again:

Lesson #15:   We challenge our students everyday, why not create challenges for ourselves in the process.

Leave a comment below or let me know on Twitter (@ArinKress) about challenges you've created for yourself!

PS- A sincere thank you to Jennifer Regruth for creating and sharing such an amazing video about her Mystery Skype call. Being able to see into her classroom, gave me a glimpse of what could happen in mine! Thanks for the inspiration!