Skype-a-Thon is coming soon! On November 13th and 14th, classrooms across the world will be breaking down their walls and connecting students with peers from various countries and cultures, as well as experts in various fields.

This year, our collective Skype-a-Thon goal will be to travel over 14 million virtual miles. For every 400 miles traveled, Microsoft will make a donation to schools in need. So, not only will we be making a positive change in the world by connecting students from various backgrounds, cultures and faiths, but we’ll also help raise funds for supplies for those less fortunate!

For new participants

If you are new to Skype in the Classroom, fear not! Any educator can take their students on a Skype-a-Thon adventure. First, create a free account on the Microsoft Educator Community. Once there, spend some time perusing the rich content at your fingertips. Find a Virtual Field trip that connects to your unit of study or reach out to a guest speakerwho will inspire your students. You can request a free, live and interactive Skype experience directly on the site. Maybe you want to try a Skype collaboration or a game of Mystery Skype, too. Request a lesson, a field trip, a collaboration event, or a game for Skype-a-Thon, and you will be part of something massive!

For past participants

If you’re a veteran Skype in the Classroom teacher, challenge yourself to take your Skype-a-Thon to the next level. Try to participate in multiple calls during the eventm or travel to several countries in one day. Try something new, like a connected Kahoot using Skype screen sharing. Last year, my class played a Global Pop Culture Kahoot game with students from ten nations. Every question on the Kahoot dealt with pop culture. The students learned that despite their religion, race, and country of origin, they all knew that Shrek lives in a swamp. They found out we are way more alike than we are different! There are so many engaging ideas you can explore on Skype in the Classroom. Challenge yourself to try something new.

How to get parents involved

Maybe you might want to try something unique and include parents in your Skype-a-Thon plans. One fun idea that I do each year is to host an optional pitch-in Skype Breakfast during the morning of Skype-a-Thon. Parents have been hearing about the engaging and authentic learning that has occurred throughout our school year. They are curious and jump at the chance to experience the magic of Skype in the Classroom for themselves.

Students love showing off their Skype skills for their parents, and the parents are always blown away by what they see! Last year, they teamed up with their children for a Mystery Skype adventure with a 5th grade class in Spain. This year, they’ll join on another Mystery Skype alongside their child. It’s a fun way to kick off Skype-a-Thon!

Another meaningful way to include the parents is to create a homework assignment where the students report back what they learned to their folks. Then, they ask the parents to respond about which Skype-a-Thon destination they found most interesting and why. The kids love having homework that their parents need to do. More importantly, this assignment encourages rich discussion between parent and child. That is a win-win!

And don’t forget…

There is a fantastic collection of Skype-a-Thon resources available to seasoned and new Skype enthusiasts alike on the Skype-a-Thon Teacher Toolkit. You might be inspired to create a passport for your class’ Skype-a-Thon journey, create a class map to track your travels, and so much more!

By joining you will be part of something amazing! You’ll be taking action on so many levels, and your students and their parents will benefit as well. Make sure you share your experiences on Twitter by using #skypeathon #MicrosoftEDU, and definitely use the Microsoft Educator Community to register for calls. Miles will be counted when Skype in the Classroom lessons are booked there. Finally, I would recommend you watch the on-demand how-to” webinar for Skype-a-Thon with VP of Education Anthony Salcito and Skype Master Teacher Stacey Ryan, to learn how your class can participate and how you can organize your Skype-a-Thon activities from start to finish.

Have an amazing Skype-a-Thon, everyone!