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Microsoft - These teachers are taking their students around the world with Skype

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These teachers are taking their students around the world with Skype

Inspiring students to look beyond themselves

Disale is not alone. Shiva Kumar, who teaches in the sweltering farmlands of southern India, is Asia’s first Skype Master Teacher, a designation for volunteers who use Skype often in their lessons and are willing to train other teachers in how to use it to connect their classrooms.

Through Skype sessions, his students have traveled millions of miles around the world, virtually. Living in a flat, hot region, Kumar’s students were amazed when they experienced a Skype call with an Arctic research team. “It was eye-opening for them to discover that such a cold region exists in the world,” he says.

After more than a thousand interactions with classrooms or experts in dozens of countries since 2015, he’s still amazed by the surprising lessons learned.

Take the time his class of 8- to 10-year-olds had a Skype call with kids in a Kenyan refugee camp. “We found out that six kids were sharing one textbook there, and my students were shocked to learn of the difficulties they have and yet see the empathy flowing among them despite it all,” Kumar recalls. “My students realized there are a lot of poor people in the world, and it inspired them to start sharing more amongst themselves. Even small things like lunch, or a pencil or eraser, or sports equipment — they began sharing everything.”

“We’ve had sessions with 78 different countries,” says Kumar. “But in spite of all that diversity, the sense of commonality is what comes through to the kids. When they laugh and share things, that’s what they identify: oneness within diversity.”

For this year’s Skype-a-Thon the students in Kumar’s 10 STEM classes will bring their sleeping bags to school so they can do eight-hour shifts of 30-minute Skype sessions. The two-day marathon of virtual travel has become a staple for Kumar’s classes ever since they did the first one four years ago, when the students’ connections with classrooms around the world spanned more than a million miles. The kids decorate their school with lights and showcase their Indian culture through traditional dances and musical instruments, as well as modern STEM projects.

Disale will also be participating in the Skype-a-Thon, where he will be connecting 30 classrooms across 17 countries. Last year, almost half-a-million students from more than 90 countries participated, traveling 14.5 million miles. The goal is to meet or exceed those figures this year. For every 400 miles virtually traveled in the Skype-a-Thon, Microsoft will donate the resources for a student to attend school in one of the nine WE Villages in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, with a goal of helping 35,000 kids.

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