Skype, Egypt, and Classroom Revolution…

[Note: This piece is cross-posted at TeacherThink]

How many state budgets in 2012 will account for field trips to the Middle East? My district actually has a new “200 mile policy,” in which it is nearly impossible to take/justify a trip beyond that. Scratch the Egyptian tour. I now have to get creative. At the high school level, it will take more than arranging the desks like a tour bus [which I have done] and more of a virtual class trip that harkens memories of “The Magic School Bus” and Ms. Frizzle. Through a combination of Twitter, Google Earth, and Skype, I am able to take my classes around the globe FREE!
Rewind to February 6, 2011. I was looking around the web for resources to teach a Human Rights unit in my Senior American Citizenship class. Admittedly Thankfully, I was multitasking on Facebook. Phil, a friend of mine, now in Law School at Seton Hall University, was providing updates on the uprising in Egypt. He often referred to his friends in Egypt and their individual struggles for freedom. He spent about 13 weeks studying International Law and Human Rights in Egypt the last two summers [jackpot!]. So, I commented a couple of times on his status/posts and threw out the hypothetical, “What would it take to get you to Skype with my class?” Not only did he play my game of quid pro quo, he committed to 3 classes on Friday, February 11 [an important date in Egyptian history as you will soon see]. This interaction justified all of those hours Facebook wasted perusing status updates and pictures of people I normally wouldn’t have cared to see until the class reunion [maybe a bit harsh].
Move to February 11, 2011: First period American Citizenship class. Enter seniors on a Friday [sometimes an oxymoronic statement]. I start the class with a tweet to get things rolling: #EgyptianRevolution #?sforPhil. [Click here to see how I tweet in my classroom without access to twitter] I love using tweets as an opener, because they require students to focus on my topic and create a concise statement [question in this case].
After the tweet we hop on Google Flight #221 [my room number]. Using Google Earth, we fly from room 221 at Mt. Spokane High School to Seton Hall University School of Law. The international leg takes us to Tunisia [where it all started] then Tahrir Square and Libya, a pit stop in Uganda and Rwanda [as we have studied both countries] to give us some context, and all the way back to Egypt. Check out the video below:

Finally, we get to Skype with an expert on International Law and Human Rights who is 2500 miles away. I start the conversation with a bit of our curriculum to give Phil some context of our learning. We started our unit on Human Rights with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR]. Phil then went into his experiences with everything from law to the Egyptian people. As he spoke of the regimes to go through Egypt from his flat in Newark, NJ, he took a pause for a moment to listen to the TV behind him. Though not completely audible, we could hear the reporter in the background announce “Mubarak has stepped down.” The elation that overcame Phil’s face was memorable and this moment for my students was priceless. If we are looking to reach enduring understandings, this lesson just etched a moment of revolutionary success into the brains of the malleable minds sitting in my classroom. Our fieldtrip was a success.

Classroom Connection:
Twitter: Like I said in the piece above, I use twitter in the classroom. I actually use it on a nearly daily basis, and I love it! Check it out here.
Google Earth: This is a great FREE resource to take your kids on that “Magic School Bus” that transcends all state budgets. If you are interested in recording “tours” on Google Earth like I did in the video above, check out TeacherThink this upcoming week. Subscribe to TeacherThink here.
Skype: So long as you have the hardware [webcam, computer, and internet connection], Skype is a powerful FREE tool to break down the walls of your classroom. It now includes group video chat, so multiple people can be on at the same time to conference!
Jeff Naslund is @TeacherThink. He teaches History and Math at Mt. Spokane High School in Mead, WA. He is the creator/author of TeacherThink. TeacherThink strives to improve the teaching experience by providing several levels of support, including but not limited to technology resources [oftentimes FREE], innovative lesson ideas, and out-of-the-box educational thought. Efficiency and collaboration will allow educators to weather the current economic storm. Click here to subscribe to the email list, here to follow @TeacherThink on Twitter, and here on Facebook.


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