The Excitement of Learning

As a teacher, you know when your students are excited about learning. It is what you work for. Is is part of the passion that makes you a true educator.

I had the honor of witnessing such display of excitement and learning a couple of weeks ago, as I spent a day of learning with educators participating in the Edweek2011 in St. Jospeh, Missouri. Not only did I want to talk to teachers and administrators about the opportunities of using Skype in the classroom, I wanted to show them first hand. I wanted them to experience the potential it could bring into their own schools by connecting, communicating and collaborating with others around the world. But the connection could not only be about the connection via Skype itself. How can we make a connection to curriculum content and 21st century skills and literacies? How can we turn an ordinary connection via Skype into a LEARNING CALL?

Using the concept of  “The Digital Learning Farm: Students as Authentic Contributors”by Alan November, I had arranged a Skype call with Mrs. Yollis and her third grade students. Neither party knew the geographic location of each other. It was each groups’ goal to find their respective location by asking closed questions that could be answered with a “Yes” or a “No”. Mrs. Yollis had prepared her 3rd graders by distributing specific job responsibilities during a Skype call  in order to work together to figure out the location of their connection partner.

I hope you will be able to see, hear and feel the excitement of learning these students displayed by watching the edited video recording (for time purposes) of the call.

Make no mistake, simply by assigning these job responsibilities to (groups of or individual) students will not automatically create a learning call, nor will it welcome such an open display of learning excitement into your classroom. The credit goes to Mrs. Yollis for having prepared here students with her own enthusiasm and thirst for learning the entire school year up until this point.

The learning call was well framed by preparing students ahead of time. All of Mrs. Yollis’ students had had previous experiences with authentic contributions to their classroom learning community. Just take a closer look at Mrs. Yollis’ fabulous classroom blog documenting and describing their shared learning.

During the Skype call, Mrs Yollis continued to guide and focus students on the task at hand. It was obvious to us “on the other side of the screen”, that students knew their job responsibilities and worked well together.

Once the call was over, the learning continued by reflecting on the experience on their classroom blog. Mrs. Yollis posted  questions for her students to comment on. The class also received comments from teachers who had participated from Missouri as well as blog readers as far away as Australia.

image licensed under Creative Commons by Sean Nash
Image licensed under Creative Commons by Sean Nash

The Mystery Skype Call from langwitches on Vimeo.

Read more about Mystery Skype calls:

18 thoughts on “The Excitement of Learning”

  1. This seems like a great way to use Skype! What class was this used for? What planning did the teachers have to do in order for this to be successful?

  2. I used to feel so sad when students asked, “Is Hawaii next to Alaska?” (I grew up in Hawaii). Most of the students asking this question saw a map of the U.S. with Hawaii and Alaska in drawn in a box, next to each other somewhere in the corner of the map.
    But the mystery call activity proved not only students CAN problem solve using their geographical knowledge but have FUN doing it, too.
    This is a fantastic lesson. I would like to try it something like this with my pre-calculus students (using pre-calculus level questions, of course).

  3. I love the idea of skyping in the classroom. I teach fourth graders and I think it would be so cool to skype with another class. Also, it would be a great way to teach my class, if I can’t be there one day. I would love to try this one day.

  4. I am impressed by the way Skype is utilized in the learning environment. I have never envisioned or considered using Skype inside the classroom environment. However, after watching the videos and observing students level of excitement and authentic contribution I am eager to use this tool myself. I like the idea of using the graphic organizers, because they help students to effectively use higher order thinking skills.

    1. Syreika,
      Skype is one of the tools, I could not imagine being without in the classroom. It has been the most natural tool to integrate and open up the walls of the classroom. Expanding the world of my students and teachers as well as bringing in perspective.

  5. I love the idea of mystery class via skype. I participated in an internet mystery penpals last year using google mail and my grade 4’s absolutely loved it. I would like to try this ‘live’ with my class next year–is anyone interested?

  6. I have always wanted to try Skype with with class and am about ready to give it a try! I would love to do the guess where in the world the other class is from by asking yes or no questions. What an exciting way to learn!

  7. I am amazed at the use of Skype, I agree that I have never used Skype like this in my classroom .I have used Skype personally to stay connected to family and friends. I am impressed with this classes’ ability to collaborate, respect each other and complete the task at hand. I think this would be extremely beneficial to many students and co-workers in my school. Thank you for this presentation and article.

  8. What a great use of SKYPE! Thank you for sharing this experience with us! I have never personally used Skype but I am intrigued about incorporating it into my classroom in some manner. I love the idea of a “mystery meeting” and teaching students to ask appropriate questions to determine the other party’s location. This will also allow me to personally connect with friends and family members that I am unable to connect with as frequently as I would like.

  9. I hope to use Skype to teach my special education students about careers they might not have thought about to help them with their transition after high school.

  10. I love the idea of using Skype in the classroom to help my students become more global learners. This seems like a great learning experience for them. I really like how jobs are assigned so that everyone knows their part and is actively engaged. What a great idea!

  11. Hi! What an inspiring article, and video clip before this article! I have used Skype many times before with distant family members and I have always wanted to use it in the classroom. The problem is always been how to connect with other teachers at the second grade level. I am still confused on how to connect with other teachers. I feel like I have contacted teachers before and became discouraged after never hearing from them. I also feel that I NEED to create a teacher blog to make it easier for me to connect with other teachers…that I am also working on and need much help with that (any information regarding blogging would be a great help too!) I just left a message on the “teachers pay teachers” Facebook page asking if any other 2nd grade teachers would be willing to have their students Skype with my class and practice some listening and speaking standards- how’s that for connecting standards to technology! I love technology and it is a hobby for me….I instantly take what I learn and experiment with it 🙂

  12. I love Skype! I have used it every Spring to “meet” our pen pals. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  13. I’ve been considering effective ways to get started with Skype in the classroom, especially in primary grades. This idea of Q and A, in order to uncover a location could be easily adapted to fit a primary curriculum, and would be a good place to start for novice Skypers.

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