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 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!

No comments:

Post a Comment