New survey shows U.S. educators increasingly turning to Skype to teach empathy and compassion

A group of diverse students hold up posters that read, "I can change the world."

For years, pioneering educators have been embracing the Internet and video communications technology to expand the walls of their classroom. They are connecting their students with other cultures, races, religions and communities to help encourage thoughtful and compassion perspectives about the world. Now more than ever, we are finding that Skype is helping educators accomplish this goal.

With the recent tragedies and divisive rhetoric in the Unites States, 92 percent of teachers and 84 percent of parents surveyed say it’s more important than ever to teach students about compassion and cultural understanding1. In the same survey, 91 percent of teachers and 90 percent of parents believe Skype in the Classroom can help their students learn those skills.

The survey also found that 93 percent of teachers and 89 percent of parents say that face-to-face communication via Skype in the Classroom is an effective tool to teach students empathy. Today, as we kick off our annual Skype-a-Thon around the world, we will see this in action with an estimated half a million students taking the first step to connect, to be curious and, ultimately, to open their hearts and minds.

“My students recognize the complex world in which we live. They see the hope and the tragedy. They are forced to navigate the realities, the sorrow, the truth and the fiction,” says Scott Bedley, 4th/5th grade teacher in Irvine, California. “The power of connecting my students to the world through Skype is that this complex world is brought back to the simple fact that we are all more alike than different. Through these live experiences, I’ve seen compassion turned into action. My students are building personal connections and a deeper understanding of the people, who like us, face challenges that can be solved working together.”

Of the teachers surveyed, 87 percent believe that with Skype in the Classroom, they would feel better equipped to help students build these skills. This explains the increased engagement seen in the Skype in the Classroom community  – there has been a 98 percent increase in requests for virtual field trips, guest speakers and connections with other classrooms in the past year.

The survey also shows that teachers and parents believe these Skype connections offer added benefits for future career opportunities and performance.

“Skype in the Classroom is one of the most impactful ways I have found to connect what students are learning to real life.  It teaches important life skills and traits such as collaboration, communication, empathy, and compassion. These are skills students need to be learning and developing now, and that will be critical in their future,” says Stacey Ryan, 7th grade math teacher in Andover, Kansas. “There is something really powerful about the conversations between students using Skype to connect and share with one another; they are able to see and hear the voices of students and experts in different parts of the world to learn together.”

And in our recent poll, Ryan is not alone. 92 percent of teachers surveyed agree that compassion and inclusive thinking is critical for students to succeed in their future careers, and 86 percent believe that teaching students global citizenship and compassion will lead to better behavior.

The potential for change through these human connections is significant. Every time a student meets an individual different from what they are accustomed to, they are expanding their perception and understanding of others. In just a few years to come, millions of classrooms could be connected. The glory will go to the thousands of passionate teachers who are embracing this technology and helping to create the next generation of compassionate, global citizens.

To see the impact of Skype-a-thon firsthand, see what teachers are sharing with #skypeathon and #MicrosoftEDU. You can also follow the highlights with Skype in the Classroom on Facebook or Twitter.

Teachers: If you are new to Skype in the Classroom, access the getting started guide here.

Parents: If you’d like to get your school involved with Skype in the Classroom, our guide for parents will help you do that here.

1November 2017 poll conducted by Microsoft and PSB among 251 K-12 Teachers and 500 Parents in the US.