Taking the first step in rethinking how you design learning experiences for your students can be incredibly difficult especially if you don't know where to start. Our story this week is from Mr. Nam Thanh who helps you take the first step with his JRNEY to becoming an innovative educator not just in his community but across the world. The beauty of this story is that anyone with an internet connection and a bit of motivation can be like Nam and open the world to his students. Here's part 1 of Nam's 2 part exploration of Skype in the classroom.
The biggest challenge I have ever faced in teaching was in learning to apply technology to my teaching methods. Eight years ago, I was afraid of integrating technology, although I knew that it would enhance the effectiveness of my lessons. Through Microsoft’s Innovative Educator Expert program, I realized that technology could exceed the limit of a regular class and help to expand the space of education internationally, and allow my students to discover more issues they cared about. Skype has become an integral part of implementing global projects and helping to bridge the gap between the classroom and real life.
Simple but Wonderful Start
In 2015, I first used Skype in my classroom while doing the project We are little volunteers. My students worked on projects with new friends from the Philippines, Serbia, Israel, India, etc. They exchanged personal ideas, knowledge, and they asked each other questions about their interests. They had never experienced anything like it before!
The first great experience with Skype brought joy, wonder, and intrigue to my classroom; both my students and I did not want to stop. It became an infinitely useful tool that prompted me to start looking for more ways to connect. Here are some ways I have continued to extend my classroom walls to the world and how you can get your students involved too.
2. Interview Experts (guest speakers)
As you know, teachers cannot be good at all fields. So, I invite experts into the classroom, no matter where they are in the world. They will share their knowledge with my class. My students also love this way to learn new things from new people. I am so happy to see them ask lots of questions with the experts.
3. Exchange Cultures
To help students to learn a new culture, I use Skype to connect my class with other classes around the world to share our own culture and learn about new ones from other classes. It's amazing way to learn a new thing!
My students really love this game. This kind of using Skype helps to change type of learning which connects my class with a class from another city, state or country and give my students with the task of guessing where the Skype class is located by asking each other questions.
5. Skype + Kahoot = New Level of Student Engagement
Skype and Kahoot are two of my favorite tools that help me disrupt traditional ways of teaching and make learning fun. I’ve been consistently using them both over the past few years. Both Kahoot! and Skype made my students more engaged and active than any other class format.
6. Join a Virtual Field Trip
I love having my students participate in learning activities outside the classroom. However, sometimes I can not do this often due to a number of reasons such as bad weather, geographical distances, budget limitations, etc. To overcome these limitations, I’ve organized Skype Virtual Field Trips in my classroom. For example, to commemorate the Earth Day event, I connected my classroom with a staff member at a National Park in the United States to learn about the Joshua Tree; or on the occasion of "Oceans Month" I let my students visit the turtle hospital without leaving the classroom.
With Skype, the classroom walls extend to the entire world and students realize that learning can take place anytime and virtually anywhere.
By Nam Thanh
Mr. Nam Thanh (@mrnamvas) is a primary school teacher in Vinschool in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He has authored multiple articles, and he has been nationally and internationally recognized for the implementation of creativity and the integration of technology into his teaching. Nam is the founder of the global project Five Safe Finger: https://mrnamvas.wixsite.com/fivesafefingers. He is the winner of Educator of the Year Asia 2017 and Top 50 Global Teacher Prize Finalist 2018.
Skype is just one way to connect, join in the conversation and add your tips, tools, and tricks for connecting your students.