Year 5/6 Classroom Teacher
St Therese’s Catholic Primary School
Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Expert Blair Smith says that traveling with his parents as a child opened his eyes to the opportunities available to those with the desire to pursue their dreams. But at the small rural school where he teaches, he found that most students had never even left Central Queensland, let alone the country.
Then Skype changed everything.
“When I discovered Skype in the Classroom,” Smith explains, “I knew this would change the way I teach. It allowed me to not only expose students to other countries, cultures and religions through Mystery Skypes — breeding empathy and compassion along with increased knowledge in these students — but it also allowed me to stop pretending I was the expert on everything and to bring true experts into my classroom.”
“There is nothing more powerful than bringing an author into my room to teach students about the writing process and to inspire them to become authors,” says Smith. “The students love to be able to read Chris’s books, ask him questions and share their own writings with him. I have never seen students more engaged with their writing than when we conduct these sessions.”
Smith’s use of Skype in the Classroom has now gone beyond his classroom. Each term, he runs Skype nights, where an entire night is spent Skyping around the world. And these community events aren’t just for Smith’s students. They include students from other classes, past students, parents and even grandparents — some traveling up to three hours to participate.
The work has paid off.
“Through Skype,” Smith explains, “I have shown my students and their families so many amazing places around the world and created a sense of wonder in them. I have also enabled them to connect with students around the world who have similar dreams, but may not have similar opportunities. And as a class, we have now sponsored numerous families and animals in need of help directly through our Skype interactions with them.”
About Blair Smith
- Educational background: I have been teaching year 4-7 for seven years. I have been teaching the year 5/6 class for the past four years.
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: Skype in the Classroom
- What is the best advice you have ever received? To change my classroom setup to flexible seating.
- Website I check every day: Tweetdeck, so I can have my daily dose of relevant teacher PD and connect with my PLN.
- Favorite childhood memory: Travelling the world with my parents when I was in Year 7.
- Favorite book: Any of the books from the Hack Learning series.