Students from Holy Spirit Community School, located in Victoria – Australia, aren’t exposed to many of the world’s diverse cultures. ‘Down Under’ is far, far away from Europe, the Americas and Africa. Even Asia requires a 5+ hour flight to reach our beloved homeland.
Whilst Australia is fast becoming a highly multicultural society, there is so much for our kids to discover about our amazing world and the cultures that live within. As a result the theme ‘culture sharing’ drove our day and night Skype-A-Thon marathon. To learn about the cultures of the world and share our own was our challenging quest.
What is a Skype-A-Thon?
A gargantuan challenge for a class or group of students to Skype / video call classrooms from around the world, uninterrupted , for a set period of time. Naturally there are set meal breaks and toilet breaks. Our set period of time was the marathon from 9am on December 3rd till 1am on December 4th. Daunting? Yes. Awesome? Absolutely.
How did it transpire?
During our journey around the world, we communicated with 24 different classrooms from places like England, India, Laos, South Korea, Alaska, Canada, Hawaii, Nigeria, Croatia, France, Spain, China, Japan, Tawian, Sweden, Russia, Ireland, Hungary, New Zealand, Malaysia, UAE and other states from the USA.
Each call consisted of 2 phases. Firstly a Mystery Skype game where each class takes turns in guessing where the other is located in the world through yes or no questions. Lastly, sharing and learning of each others culture and lifestyles. Prior to the Skype-A-Thon, our students worked in groups to create a small presentation on our Australian culture as well as teaching them an Australian related skill or talent.
In effect, our students camped out in the classroom accompanied by comfortable bean bags and blankets, they ate together and took turns leading each of the #skypeathon calls – all with the goal of talking to schools in as many times zones as possible to learn about the worlds culture. Even our Class Dojo Mascot ‘Aussie’ Mojo came for the marathon ride!
We taught the world some ‘Aussie’ slang, terrified students regarding our dangerous animals then melted their hearts with our cute and cuddly ones, shared our unique cuisines such as lamingtons and Vegemite, promoted our national sports of AFL, NRL and Cricket and even taught a few schools the Nutbush. Even though the Nutbush is American born, it is an enormously popular dance in Australia. Maximum points going to Megan Godek‘s South Korean classroom for learning the moves the quickest. A special mention to John Osigbemhe‘s Nigerian students who loved the song so much they started to sing add their own moves to the dance.
In return we were blessed with so much more. Our students were treated with rich culture from all classrooms some examples being an Irish jig, a Bollywood dance routine, Indian musical demonstration, Nigerian tribe traditions, the New Zealand Hukka, a cameo on Croatian local news, a Gaelic football lesson, Hawaiian surfing tips, an enormous list of new words and sayings in the languages of Mandarin, Japanese, Laos, Maoiri, Spanish, French, Croatian, Gaolic and much, much more. There was plenty of friendly banter between our cross Tasman rivals, New Zealand, about the Rugby and Cricket World Cups as well as our Irish friends regarding the recent International Rules results. All in good fun.
Here is a link to the Croatian News Report on our Skype-A-Thon
During the whole day we had 2 ‘digital’ stations set up. One being a Twitter station where students took turns in ‘tweeting’ updates of each skype call and the culture learning we were treated with. The other being our Periscope station where we ‘live streamed’ 5 minutes of each call to the student’s parents and the school community. The parents enjoyed the digital ‘live’ windows into the Skype’A’Thon so much nearly all parents arrived a couple of hours early in picking their children up to be part of the Skype-A-Thon, in particular the Mystery Skype games where they tested their geographic knowledge with their kids.
What did my students get out of the experience?
Group collaboration skills to create their presentation for an authentic audience, communication and speaking skills were tested to the limits when communicating with students with accents and stuttering wi-fi connections, improved geographic understanding and knowledge, location and mapping, improved understanding and knowledge of Australian culture, history and citizenship let alone the 24 other countries we connected with and more. Add in problem solving when our PC crashed, iPad battery ran out, laptop wi-fi failed, Skype connections were lost and frozen. Package that together and you have one amazing, unique contemporary learning experience that is matched by no other.
1am rolled around quicker than you would believe. 110,000 digital miles were travelled, over 6 continents in less than 16 straight hours. 23 engaged and enlightened students along with a very proud and tired teacher.
Taking students on a Skype adventure is the kind of innovative learning activity that teachers are creating all around the world to break down the walls of their classrooms. Jump on board, its an experience you or your students will never forget. I’m always interested in connecting my classroom with others, feel free to drop me a tweet @bjlannen or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to the huge list of connected educators that made the Skype-A-Thon possible, the parents for their trust in the the program and the leadership at Holy Spirit Community School for believing and seeing the worth of the Skype-A-Thon.