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Friday, June 8, 2012

Skype in the Classroom Continues!

How do you keep 81 fourth-grade students engaged for over an hour?   The answer is simple: Skype with a group of soldiers overseas in Afghanistan! That's exactly what we did today! At approximately 0900 we received a call via Skype from Petty Officer Second Class Christine Henault. She and 4 other soldiers who are part of the NTM-A spent some time describing their days in Afghanistan to our three (3) fourth grade classes. 

Back in November of 2011 our class was writing 'Thank You' letters to our veterans, and one of my students wrote to Miss Henault (who is my neighbor's sister).  After that, we sent her a package at Christmas time.  When she came home on leave at the end of March she made a surprise visit to my class.  At that time she described her training and how she ended up in Afghanistan.  Her presentation included a Powerpoint, sharing artifacts and doing some calisthenics with the group.  They loved it and HER!  As she left, I asked if she might be interested in skyping with the class.

And so, we planned the call. During the Skype call Christine introduced her fellow soldiers, some were Army, some Navy.  The students were introduced to Major Shelly Frank (USAF), Technical Sergeant Alysia Parsons USAF, Master Sergeant Conrad Hernandez, USAF, Technical Sergeant Jason Girvin, USAF, and Sergeant First Class Miguel Soriano, USA.  The soldiers took turns speaking to the students about their jobs in Afghanistan, their hometowns and life in overseas.  They fielded questions from the 10 year olds who asked: "What do you miss most about the USA?", "What kinds of food do Afghan people eat?" "Can you compare the weather of Afghanistan to your hometown?" "What do the schools look like?" "What kinds of missions have you gone on?" and many more.  The students applauded and pumped their fists in a "Power to the Team" (a gesture that Miss Henault had taught them when she visited.) 

The soldiers were wonderful with these kids.  They explained things appropriately and succinctly.  Some of them are getting ready to leave Afghanistan while some are newly appointed. Some have been all over the world and for some it was their first assignment away.  Some were there in charge of the construction crews and some were part of the Computer Operations.

One thing the soldiers all had in common was that they left families back home that they miss dearly, and yet they were all upbeat and positive and excited about the work they are doing because they know they are helping  the Afghan people while serving their country at the same time.  

My gut feeling is that the Soldiers truly enjoyed their visit to our school as much as the students enjoyed seeing and listening to them.  However, I'm not sure the students fully understand or appreciate the magnanimity of the call.  But one thing is certain, this experience will remain in their memories for a lifetime. Speaking with these brave men and women and learning about life in the Military will surely be remembered for years to come.

(One side note:  I am so proud of the 4th grade students for their thoughtful questions, their rapt attention and their excellent behavior.  It is tough to keep the attention of children that age and the students were just so good!)

Do you see the value of Skype in Schools?  How have you used it?


Skype in Schools: Wikispace outline ways to use Skype.

Projects on Skype in the Classroom: from Skype, a place to find or list your projects. 

Skype Resources: A collection of sites compiled by Cybrary Man (Jerry Blumengarten)


  1. What a memorable experience!

    I would love to set up something with you for next year, either skyping or "where in the world?", whatever. Will be easier to manage with fourth graders!


  2. WOW, what a great experience! Skype is my favorite tool to connect and communicate with others with my 4th graders. Next year, we will continue to Skype with other classrooms, and I want to expand to bringing other resource people in to class.

  3. This is an amazing project your students will never forget. Thanks so much for sharing it. You've opened up the window to many ways of using Skype that I hadn't thought about. Terrific.

  4. @Heather - I'm hoping the kids hold onto that memory for a long time to come! Would love to set something up for next year! Let's keep in touch.

    @Jan - Skype has easily becoming my favorite tool as well. I love that we can connect globally. Next year I am hoping Mystery State Skype but go beyond as well. I think we have a fabulous tool to reach out to experts as well as work on lessons with other classes. Thanks for taking the time to comment and let's Skype with each other next year!

    @Maureen - There are so many ways to connect via skype and this is just one fabulous example. Our class has skyped with a meteorologist, a National Park Ranger, our Principal, several classes for mystery skyping, Students in Guatemala and more. Perhaps next year we can connect our classes!

    Thank you all for taking the time to comment.

  5. Nancy, reading this post gave me goosebumps. May I add this post to my Skype resources? As you know I am an avid user of Skype in my classroom and often present on this topic.

    Yes, I agree that this experience with remain with these students probably for their lifetime. How often can we say that about a lesson we present to such a large group of students at one time?

    Thank you for sharing this amazing experience with your readers. It is a testament to why other teachers should be incorporating Skype in their classrooms.

  6. @Paula - Please feel free to use this resource and the other blog post I wrote about our initial experiences with Skype last year.

    Skype is an amazing tool that flattens the classroom walls. Our students are truly becoming more global as we can reach other parts of the world through this medium. This was an extra special way to use skype as we were able to spend time with our friends in the armed forces.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  7. What an awesome opportunity and experience for you and your students! I love using Skype to connect.

  8. Thank you for your comment! I'm glad to hear your baskets held up so well! I hope mine do as well!

  9. That is the coolest thing! I have never used skype but it is on my list of technology to try out. Thank you for linking up to my More Teaching Blogs page. It's great to find another 4th grade teacher, especially who has got it together with technology.

    The Teaching Thief

  10. Nancy,

    That was a great experience for both your students and the military men and women. Since last year I feel as though I can access the whole world and it's a wonderful feeling.

    Just beginning ( a little tiny bit)to feel connected. Anyway, my students have skyped with authors, which they loved. Their favorite skype, however, was in late fall when we were in our Tales of the Strange and Mysterious unit. In Villisca, IA, seven people were murdered which happened in the early 1920s I believe and the crime was never solved. Five of the victims were children (three from the same family). I found the name of the person who is charge of the media events that take place at the house where the murders occurred, and we skyped with him. He was so good and of course the students loved the idea of ghosts haunting the place. He took them on a virtual tour of the house and pointed out various gruesome areas. Anyway, in a nutshell, they absolutely loved it!!

  11. Kris,
    Gone are the days when the teachers are the only people sharing information. With all the new technology available the classroom walls are expanding to community members, service people, experts in various fields and more. The kids are loving being able to connect with others outside the classroom.

    Thanks for sharing your Skype call. Sounds eerily wonderful!

  12. Hi Nancy, as a companion tool to Skype, you might consider a tool we launched recently called Härnu. We're at Enables you to connect with educators and other people around the world in your own language. Thanks.


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