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Introducing New Ning: Around the World with 80 Schools

After 14 months of manually managing the rapidly growing  participants/educators to the Around the World with 80 Schools project (and adding their locations to a Google Map), I have decided to migrate and build a community for participants on the Around the World with 80 Schools Ning.

Around The World With 80 Schools Ning

Here is some info about the project and steps to join and participate.

Around the World with 80 Schools started in January 2009 and is an ongoing project.

The challenge is to connect your students with 80 schools from around the world via Skype (a free video conferencing tool). Once completed, you will be inducted into the Hall of Fame of “Skyping Certified Educator” :)
So make sure you keep documentation of your connections.

It is up to you how regularly and for how long you connect with your Skype partners. The only requirement to count as a “connection” is that you are connecting your students with another school anywhere in the world. While it will take some participants a few months to complete the challenge, it might take others several years and different student groups to connect with 80 schools. There is no time limit nor pressure to make a certain amount of Skype connections in a given time period.

You are welcome to join with your students at any time. There is no grade nor subject area limitations.


  1. Sign up for the project to add your contact info to a growing list of educators from around the world who are interested and ready to connect with you and your students. Once added and approved, you will receive access to the spreadsheet with the contact info.
  2. Become a member of the Around the World with 80 Schools Ning.
  3. Add your location to the Member Map on the Ning
  4. Make contact via the spreadsheet or via the Ning.
  5. Document your connections.
  6. Share your experience on the Ning by writing a blog post, adding images, videos or links.
  7. When you have completed 80 connections, submit application (more info to come soon) to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Already a member from Around the World with 80 Schools?
You already have access to the contact info spreadsheet. Please join the Ning and add your location to the Member Map on the Ning, The placemark will link back to your Member Profile. Please blog about your Skype experiences with your students and share images and videos of the Skype connection with the network.

Help me spread the word of the skyping educator Ning, by tweeting and blogging about it.

Use Experience to Reach Others

The title of this post “Use Experience to Reach Others” is from a blog post one of our 7th grade (Jewish) students wrote after skyping with (Muslim) students from Minnesota. (Thanks Micah!)

Last month, out Middle School students became the Experts as they were talking bout Judaism to 7th grade classes from Michigan, who were studying World Religions. Our students asked the class from Michigan if they had any Jewish students (which they didn’t) and if they knew any Jews personally (which they didn’t). There was one Muslim student in their class and our students immediately asked her questions about Islam. After the Skype call was over, our students expressed interest in contacting and connecting with other Muslim students in order to learn more about their religion.

A quick tweet out put me in contact with the Banadiir Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the American School of Khartoum, Sudan. Thank you Trey Wodele and Damianne for making the connection !

The first Skype call was set up with Minnesota. During the call, which lasted almost an hour, I witnessed what I am defining as a transformative learning experience. Students had a list of questions prepared about Islam. In the beginning (first 20-30 minutes),  the conversations felt very scripted as students read and answered the questions off their list. That changed when students from Minnesota asked “Do you want to see how we pray?” There was an enthusiastic “Yes” on the Florida end of the screen. As they were watching  and listening to the explanation, one student ran to get his Tallit (prayer shawl) and Tefillin to show and demonstrate how Jews dress while they pray.

From that moment on, students truly interacted with each other on both sides of the screen. It was the moment that questions came off the list they had prepared and curiosity took over, connections and articulation of their own experiences reached a new level. Skype made it a transformative learning experience by:

  • making it a conversation… a back and forth
  • personalizing the questions and answers
  • connecting it to their own experiences
  • making learning go far beyond what a static text book page can provide

I could tell that the wheels in the students’ minds were still turning as the Skype call ended. After leaving the “Social Studies” class and heading over to their next period, the 7th grade “Language Arts”teacher jumped on the opportunity to build on this learning experience of her students. She asked them to take the notes they had taken during the Skype call and write a reflective blog post about their experience.

Find an excerpt of their posts below with links to their classroom blog and a short 90 second video of the Skype connection.

An Eye-Opening Experience

I believe that not only should we Skype with people of different religions, we should want to Skype with them. The experience is eye opening and very informative. I now understand many things about Muslims that I did not before, and they probably learned things about us that they did not know before. This was fun and a great learning experience. If you are someone who is ready to learn about new things and people, you should try Skyping, too!

Reflection on this Morning

Hopefully, technology can bring us together so we can see the good and the similarities in each other, instead of the differences.

Skyping with Muslims in Minneapolis

There are so many disagreements with our cultures. Those disagreements break the chains of our friendships. We need to take a stand and connect the chains back together. They are great people; some other religions like Catholic and Hindu, and not just us, need to Skype with them.

What I Learned

I want to write letters to the Somalian Muslim students that my class and I skyped with, like “Pen Pals”; and maybe, just maybe, we can become close friends – you never know.

Using our Experience to Reach others

I am Jewish and I just skyped with kids who are Muslims. From this experience, I realized that we have more similarities than differences. We, and people of all religions, need to put our differences aside and look at our similarities.[...] If we take the time to get to know religions other than our own we will understand, just like I did, that we can get along. So, my one wish for the world, is that one day we will have peace – it is up to every one of us, and can begin with a single conversation.

Skyping with Muslims in Minnesota

Rational hate would be us Americans hating the people who were behind 9/11. Irrational hate would be us hating every Muslim we see, just because they are Muslim. What is the reason behind it? It’s the same as saying you never want to speak to a German again because of the Holocaust. That person could be totally against Hitler. Never judge a book by its cover; those who do may miss the best read of their life.

7th Grade + Modern Technology = An Endless World of Learning

It was just a normal morning in March. I walked through the school doors ready for my daily classes: Hebrew, math, science, English, and history. Today, though, I learned so much more than those subjects. At 10:00 A.M., we dived into the beliefs and traditions of a different religion, Islam…via our modern technology, Skype. [...] Over all, this was a fantastic experience that many people would probably never get to have. We shared information about ourselves and learned about a different religion. Hopefully, one friendly interaction at a time, more and more people will begin to realize the similarities connecting people around the world.

A Skype Odyssey

Odyssey- A Spiritual Quest

image licensed under CC by Let Ideas Compete

An Odyssey is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as:

1 : a long wandering or voyage usually marked by many changes of fortune
2 : an intellectual or spiritual wandering or quest

I can’t help but make the association with the above definition of “wandering” ,”changes of fortune” and “quest” with my Around the World with 80 Schools project.

The Quest

It has been over a year, since I have embarked on making connections with and for my teachers and students around the world. The journey has been nothing short of eye opening and wondrous.

Broaden your Horizon

When I first thought of using Skype in the classroom, I wanted to broaden my students’ (and other teachers’) horizon. I wanted them to say “We talked to someone in Argentina today” or “The kids in Thailand are just like us” or “Teachers in New Zealand are preparing similar lessons than I do”. I wanted to bring the geography and global awareness of other countries and cultures into everyday vocabulary.


I wanted them (students & teachers)  to be “awed” at the possibilities that technology can open up to us. I wanted them to be shocked at how easy and economical it was to make the world part of their classroom.

Change in Fortune

The “Awwws” ,”Wows” and “That is incredible” did come, but also did the “I don’t have the time to prepare my students for skype calls with other classes”, “It takes too much time away from curriculum content” and other variations of “It’s nice, but…”.

Wes Fryer says It takes leadership to get creative in schools and support the use of Skype. Wes addresses  the technology (bandwidth and security) part of that equation in his post. I am venturing out to say that leadership at schools also need to be creative and understand the pedagogical value and curriculum connections that video conferencing has in terms of learning.

Leadership needs to support “pioneering” educators. They need to be allowed to go through a process of experimenting, evaluating, reflecting to see the effects of regular video conferencing on cross-curricula integration, student learning, motivation and engagement. We also need to get creative in involving and educating parents. With many of them unfamiliar with the technology (which appears to include such a strikingly different method than they remember from their own school days), they might not understand the educational use for such a tool in the classroom.



There had to be something more to merely using a webcam and calling another class in another city and country. There had to be subject area integration, there had to be ways to support (20th AND) 21st century skills and literacies, there had to be something more than an initial “Wow”.

The wandering paid off. There IS something more than the tool:

It is NOT about the tools...

The Understanding

The understanding that it never was about the tool (Skype or the webcam) started settling in. As students (and teachers) started to be part of regular Skype calls, it crystallized itself that it was all about the connections, the authentic experiences and knowledge we were able to bring to our students in addition to the communication opportunities. More and more students took their experiences home and asked their parents to install Skype in order for them to talk to far away grandparents or friends who had moved away.

It became apparent...

Experiences such as learning about whales from kids in Canada or becoming the experts for other students from Michigan or interviewing Jews from around the world as part of a research project were just the beginning to help us understand that it is about an awareness for teachers and students.

An awareness:

  • which takes learning off the pages of textbooks
  • that gives students the tools to make connections with experts and eyewitnesses
  • that can lead them to authentic information”just in time” [personalized] for them
  • that our classrooms can be as big as the world

An Odyssey transforms the traveler. I believe that we are catching a glimpse of how Skype, the tool, is transforming learning and teaching. It is making a real impact on how information is accessed, who we are communicating with and how we are connecting to the world around us.

Here are some journal entries from second graders about their thoughts of Skype:

If I could talk to anyone on Skype, I would choose my Au Pair, Magdalena, because I haven’t seen her in a while.

Skyping is learning new things to me.

I learned how to talk to different people from different countries.

I have learned to make friends.

I would Skype with my Tante Heni, she is my aunt.

I learned about the Olympics skyping.

I would like to skype with Houston, because I would like to talk about football.

Skype is like Facebook, but better.

I would like to skype with the president.

Skype is a way to meet new people who speak different languages.

A window to the world...

Our students are learning and understanding that there are more available resources to them than printed material. Our teachers are starting to include potential Skype connections in their planning in order to extend learning. There is a buzz around school that has is shifting from “Where are we skyping to…” to “We are studying… and skyping to learn about…”

The following video is from clips, I have been recording over the last few months. Nothing was scripted, many times just recorded when passing by in the hallway. I am hoping to continue recording students to see if a shift in their answers will also become apparent.

Around the World with 80 Schools Impressions from langwitches on Vimeo.

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