Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, SocialEarth, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens...
Skype Launches Contest to Give Teachers Classroom Technology
A few months back, one of Allison Holland's students at Riverside Intermediate School in Plymouth, Ind., wrote Shaquille O'Neal asking for an autograph. But instead of an autograph, the student received the 7 foot 1 inch former NBA superstar himself, who met with the student and the rest of his classmates through a video call with technology provided by Skype.
The video call was part of Skype's education program, called "Skype in the classroom," which helps create learning experiences for students around the world using Skype's video conferencing technology. This week, Skype announced a new contest as part of the program called Santa in the Classroom. The contest gives teachers a chance to win $10,000 to purchase new technology and a Skype call with Santa Claus for their classes.
Launched in March, 2011, Skype in the classroom brings celebrities and explorers, researchers and athletes into classrooms around the world. "Using Skype, the kids get really excited!" said Holland. "When the call comes in and they can see people's faces, everyone just yells in excitement. But after that, they always stay quiet in absolute wonderment. To get a full room of grade school kids completely silent and engaged...it's incredible."
In celebration of World Teacher's Day on Friday, Oct. 3, Skype announced the addition of eight organizations to Skype in the classroom, including NASA's Digital Learning Network and The National Museum of the Royal Navy and HMS Victory.
"Skype provides a brilliant way of making contact with schools all over the world that otherwise wouldn't know that we offer interesting workshops," said Claire Jordan, Learning Officer for the National Museum of the Royal Navy and HMS Victory. "To be able to bring our collections to more people and give the opportunity to learn more about the National Museum of the Royal Navy or HMS Victory via Skype is great."
NASA's Digital Learning Center joined up with Skype in the classroom for a series educational projects. Through Skype's technology, students can connect with NASA to learn how to prepare a spaceship for liftoff, learn from scientists and engineers about the basic principles of matter, and discover what it is like to live and work in space.
The additional eight organizations, which also included British Council, Woodland Trust, VerbalizeIt, Action Aid, Education through Expedition and Choose2Matter, joined an impressive list of affiliates, including Save the Children and the New York Philharmonic. The New York Philharmonic's first project with Skype in the classroom was an exploration of Billy the Kid through the lens of Aaron Copland's 1939 ballet.
The new Santa in the Classroom contest will provide winning teachers with $10,000 to purchase products from Microsoft's online store (Microsoft completed its acquisition of Skype in October, 2011).
"Students will be able to broaden their horizons through the use of the new technology, and exposure to the cutting-edge devices and software will give them a clear advantage in their next years of school," wrote Shana Pearlman, Skype's Social Media Manager, in a blog post.
The contest began on Nov. 26, 2012 and will end on Sunday, Dec. 9 at 11:50 p.m. PST. Teachers can enter the contest online at Skype's website.
Image: "Virtual school visit using Skype"