Honesty alert - Despite diving into some of the most complicated educational technology around, two weeks ago I was the guy that avoided Skype because I somehow believed you had to pay to use it. This misunderstanding was due to my Office 365 account allotting me 60 "free" Skype minutes and therefore caused my assumption that to call another user costs minutes. A fellow Canadian Dean V. in Saskatchewan cleared this up nicely for me, as a Skype Expert would, and subsequently Caledonia Regional's first Skype-a-Thon call ever was made to Dean and his students in Saskatchewan on November 28th 2017. Dean and I teach a very similar grade 11/12 math course involving financial and workplace math. We decided to list a bunch of vaguely teen-related services and merchandise and compare the costs of these between New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, Canada. The call was awesome and even though time was tight it felt natural and students remarked "We should do that more often" and "That was really cool." On November 29th the students at our school analyzed the costs from both places and were encouraged to dig deeper into the meaning and global issues that might cause some of the large discrepancies. When we all went to sleep on the first night we had done our part to generate the most virtual miles ever in Skype-a-thon history. But we were just warming up!
Day two and Microsoft had already reached their global Skype goal before school started in Atlantic Canada. Today was a big day for us as my students, who had worked so hard with Microsoft HoloLens, Minecraft and on Windows 10 Game Development using Unity 3D, were set to speak with Microsoft VP Terry Myerson who runs the Windows Device Group. Students had some great questions ready about "ESports" Electronic Sports and Gaming, Minecraft's future for Multi-school servers, HoloLens for both entertainment and workplace and even which Microsoft executives were the best and worst Minecrafters. At 1:30pm local we were connected to Terry and apologized for not having a cultural piece at the start of our call because the boys had eaten all of the Tim Horton's donuts and the world had already heard enough Justin Bieber music.
For a solid 20+ minutes the students hammered away at Terry with difficult questions but he kept his composure very well. He dodged the question about the worst Minecrafter in the executive team (Although he did blink twice when we suggested Anthony Salcito?) but he gave serious props to the team at Minecraft saying they all would easily be the best. He was also very proud of his Minecraft skin featuring a cape. The students got just enough insider information from Terry to feel that they had a special relationship and he held back enough info to keep his job. When the call disconnected the students immediately reflected on how cool that type of access was and had already begun planning future Skype requests and even talked about a Skype Studio in our Innovation Lab. It looks like I'll be writing more grants after all. It was a stressful time, an energetic time and a special time for all of us in our first Skype-a-thon and we all can't imagine not being part of it every year moving forward.
I'm an experienced Global Minecraft Mentor, Published Educational Researcher, Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow, Apple Distinguished Educator, TeachSDGs Ambassador and grade 6-12 technology teacher. @BBTNB