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, 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!


  1. Arin, I have a bit of a similar story. My story involves Edmodo Global Pen Pals and ending the school year with a Skype with our Australian friends. I was beyond excited as you share also. I hadn't even had experience with Skype before mid-May! My first Skype was with the Australian teacher and myself, a get-to-know-you time. I was revved up after that and totally blown away that I had about 18 of 23 students return to school at 5:30pm to make the Skype happen with Australia at the beginning of their school day. I'm looking forward to doing more with Skype this year. I keep reading about Mystery Skype, and by the sounds of your experience, it was worth it!

    My first blog post at "Starting with the End" is about my class' pen pal and Skype experience.

    My summer endeavors/challenges are 1) using Twitter to connect with educators, 2) starting my own blog in preparation for a second classroom blog and 3) setting up a classroom website (yet to happen).

    Thank you for sharing and encouraging others with amazing classroom experiences available to everyone!


  2. Thanks for your comment! I just left a comment on your blog! Good luck with your summer endeavors/challenges and feel free to keep in touch on Twitter about Skype in the Classroom or anything else #edtech.

  3. Great work, Arin! This was a great accomplishment in such a short amount of time - you did a phenomenal job in creating this wonderful experience for your students. I'm glad that we were able to connect through this process as well! I'm certain that with all this experience under your belt, next year's Skyping experiences will be that much more memorable. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks for the comment and for being a part of the journey! We really enjoyed connecting with you and your students!

  5. Great post! I hope you will share more with us. Thank you!

    Skype Technical Help

    1. Thanks Lacy! I love using Skype to connect my students. Big plans for the end of this school year too! Stay tuned!

  6. Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups thanks once again!!! visit more info Skype Help and Call +1-800-231-4635 USA (Toll Free).