Sunday, November 29, 2015

Global Skype-a-Thon: Promoting Education without Borders

Join the Global Skype-a-Thon on December 3 and 4, 2015.  

Have you used Skype in the Classroom?  There are so many wonderful opportunities to get involved and bring amazing learning opportunities to your students.  A few weeks ago I participated in the #RedefineLearn event at the Microsoft campus in Redmond.  One of my key takeaways was how amazing the Skype in the Classroom program is.  The Skype-a-thon is a great way to get you started with using Skype with your students.  Getting started is easy and the resources available through Microsoft make it easy to get involved.

I encourage you to sign up now.  The easiest ways to get involved:

Mystery Skype connects you with another class somewhere in the world.  Both teams ask yes/no questions in an attempt to figure out where the other class is from.

Guest Speakers are available and willing to meet with your class. You can also sign up to be a guest speaker.  The Skype in the Classroom program has a wide array of speakers on many different topics.  From my experience, experts are very willing to take some time to visit your class, so if there is someone specific you would like as a visitor, I strongly encourage you to reach out directly.  Twitter is a great starting point to make the connection.

Virtual Field Trips are a way to bring your students anywhere in the world from the comfort of your classroom.  At the #redefinelearn event we met with someone from the Museum of Science in Raleigh who shared 'the unhuggables' with us.

How I've been connecting globally:

I have been using Skype and Google Hangout to connect my students with game developers.  I find it incredibly valuable to provide students with access to industry professionals who can share ideas, tips, and even guide my students to follow their passion through our interactions.  Some of the experts we met with so far include:

Caro Williams Pierce (@therealcaro).  Caro is a doctoral student who created a game for her dissertation using Little Big Planet 3.  I have students working with LBP3 so it was great to get a first hand account as well as a walkthrough of the game including how it was developed. 
Rahul Banerjee, the creator of met with our class four weeks in a row.  It started with a guided tutorial to show my students how to use the 'no-code' game development environment. Rahul met with two of my classes each week and as we progressed it was evident that the input from my students was as valuable to Rahul as his instruction was to them. My students provided feedback, asked questions, and contributed ideas to features that are now in the program. Rahul was even kind enough to meet with one student from a different class who really wanted to meet him.  When they met, the first words out of my student's mouth were, "I can't believe I'm really getting to meet you!".  They were able to meet one on one on several occasions.  Rahul is pretty awesome and my students love when he visits!
John Day, one of the developers who worked on Disney Infinity met with us to discuss his career as a game designer and specifically ideas about working with Disney Infinity, one of the tools my students use to create games.  
Mike Watanabee, creative director (and voice of Tim!) from Brainpop (@brainpop) was kind enough to meet us from his home in Hawaii. In order to do so, he had to get up at 4am. The kids were super excited to meet with him and talk about brainpop, the process of developing the videos, and of course roared when he addressed us as Tim :)  
We've had other visitors and I plan to continue develop these connections and allow my students to communicate directly with the experts. In fact, I have a commitments from some very exciting people in the game development industry.