Schoolchildren make 10 million miles of virtual calls during global Skype event

An event that aims to connect classrooms across the world via Skype has smashed its target of three million miles of virtual calls.

This year’s Skype-a-thon, held on November 29 and 30, saw thousands of educators, students and experts connect via virtual field trips, guest lectures and conversations to help them learn more about other cultures.

Schools from across the world racked up nearly 10 million miles of virtual calls in the 48-hour period, beating hopes of three million miles.

In Roskilde, Denmark, Skt. Josefs school organised a day of sessions with pupils in England and Wales, as well as Minecraft experts in Scotland and the US.

Meenoo Rami, from the Minecraft Education team, gave a talk on what it’s like to work on Minecraft and her own tips on how to play. Stephen Reid, from Scottish education project ImmersiveMind, used Minecraft to teach students about renewable energy, recycling and Pompeii. The students also enjoyed a masterclass in making Minecraft videos for YouTube, led by popular YouTubers PBJellyGames and RsdAngelOnFire.

Jean Pennycook travelled over 100,000 miles from Antarctica during the 2016 Skypeathon

Katja Borregaard, a maths teacher and Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Expert, who organised the Skt. Josefs event, said: “I’m new to Skype in the classroom, so this was my first time organising a Skype-a-thon. The fact we can travel so far and meet so many experts and classes is incredible. The students were amazed that they could talk to Stephen, Meenoo and others.”

Borregaard was inspired to take part in the Skype-a-thon by her colleagues in the MIE Expert community. After tweeting that the Skype-a-thon would take place on her birthday, Ysgol Bae Baglan school in Port Talbot, Wales gave her a present – one class Skyped her and sang Happy Birthday in Welsh.

“It started out as a birthday treat, but we ended up having sessions all day,” said Borregaard. “My students loved it. English is their second language so it was tricky at times, but they were determined to follow along in the sessions and ask questions.”

After the success of her Skype-a-thon event, Borregaard said she was keen to use Skype more in the classroom. “I’m a maths teacher, so the games encourage my students to think systematically. These sessions would be great for all teachers, as collaboration and communication skills are important in every subject.”

Meanwhile, 600 miles away in Kiszugló, Budapest, Microsoft in Hungary partnered with Herman Ottó Primary School for two classes. In the first session, students aged 10 to 12 Skyped famous slam poet “Actor Bob” for a lesson on literature and poetry. The class then played a guessing game with a primary school in Singapore, in which pupils asked geography questions to figure out which country the other group was from.

Herman Ottó Primary School, in Budapest, Skyping a primary school in Singapore

“It was amazing to see students from two sides of the world get to know each other’s cultures,” said Atilla Tószegi, principal of Herman Ottó Primary School. “This was truly a special day for all of us.”

Microsoft executives joined the fun, too. Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education, went on a virtual global tour of more than 40 schools in countries such as Norway, Russia and Czech Republic. Michel Van der Bel, President of Microsoft in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, met with students at Cornerstone C of E Primary School, in Hampshire, UK, via Skype.

For more information about Skype-a-thon, click here.

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