When I was a 5th grader, a great field trip was something on the order of visiting a grocery store or a farm.

Today, my 32 students went to England.

It started like this. A month or so ago I received a very exciting tweet from Joe Dale (@joedale) asking me if I would be interested in joining him in some of his presentations at the BETT Show in London. I saw the message while I was at school with students and I believe I may have actually audibly squealed when I saw it. After about two seconds of consideration, I sent him an enthusiastic “YES!” reply.

It seems that Joe, in addition to being a brilliant technology educator, presents for Skype and Microsoft. He saw a video I made a couple of years ago about a remarkable Skype session my students and I did with author and illustrator Mike Artell. Here is the video:

Since Joe was wanting to share about how educators and students are using Skype for learning and collaboration, he wanted my students and I to tell our story. I am a big believer in the power of expanding student learning through collaboration, so making the connection sounded like a wonderful idea to me. After the adrenalin wore off a little, however, I realized a potential issue. My students from this school year had only Skyped one time! They weren’t exactly Skype experts with a multitude of tales to tell.

Panic mode kicked in and I quickly set up Skype visits with a hand full of other classes to give my students a crash course into the value of real time videoconferencing. We explored other schools and other states and rapidly built a rudimentary understanding of how Skype can be used in learning and communication. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a start.


This week, Joe is presenting the power of Skype to educators at the BETT Show, and my students and I are jumping in for brief 5 minute conversations at 8:10am our time on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. (That is 4:10pm Joe’s time!) We had our first session today and it went well. I am very proud of the way my students conducted themselves both as viewers and as presenters. They surpassed my expectations and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s session with a lovely sense of calm.

In scanning the Twittersphere looking at what other people were saying about @joedale and the BETT Show, I found two tweets that stood out. The first was a photo (that’s it at the top of this post) of the Skype screen during our presentation. It was taken and tweeted by Sharon Artley (@smartleydoesIT):

The second was a tweet from fellow educator  Simon McLoughlin (@simcloughlin) from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK. He tweeted that he and his students also presented during one of Joe’s sessions today.

I immediately sent a message to Simon and told him I’d love to have our classes connect via Skype in the near future. He agreed and now we are trying to pinpoint a moment when our time zones and school schedules are aligned enough that my students can meet his pupils and we can, once again, “travel” to England without ever leaving Oregon.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am definitely not intending to malign a field trip to a grocery store. It was probably one of the highlights of my 5th grade year in Mrs. McBride’s class. Still, it is pretty remarkable and exciting how many possibilities and opportunities open up when you have tools like Skype at your disposal.

Maybe I can schedule a Skype visit to a grocery store in England…