Friday, November 21, 2014

A Peek Inside a Career at Xbox

This summer I had the chance to speak one-on-one with a few people responsible for the awesome space that is Skype in the Classroom about a new computer science related speaker series.  I was very excited about the potential to have these speakers talk with my students and open them up to careers that they may have never considered possible.  I was pleasantly surprised this month when I visited Skype in the Classroom's website to find a section entitled "Hour of Code," featuring technology professionals volunteering to speak with students about their careers.  I jumped on this opportunity and sent messages to several speakers who I thought would be of interest to 5th graders in Integrated Technology.

John Solaro, Principal Design Manager for Xbox, graciously volunteered to be our first guest.

Prior to our session, students worked to brainstorm questions that would help them learn more about John's career.  Questions ranged from "What college classes did you take?" to "What are some of the perks of your job?"  Throughout the Skype session, students also learned more about the process involved in making an actual Xbox system and the tremendous amount of time and people it takes to create one gaming system.  John also stressed the importance of collaboration and taking classes in a variety of subjects.  Although we were not able to touch the surface of the 33 questions students had prepared, we were able to learn a lot about the skills and education necessary to work in a similar career.

After the presentation, students shared some of their favorite highlights.  Among them included:
"I can't believe that he gets free Xboxes and games!"
"That's so cool that real kids test out the games before they are made."
"I never knew that it takes years to actually make an Xbox."
"You need a lot of people to make an Xbox.  I was surprised that there are so many people working on it."
"He played a lot of video games too when he was a kid!"

Skype in the Classroom has organized an amazing opportunity for students.  Not only do students get to meet some very cool people, but now they have a chance to ask pertinent questions of the people who work in a career that may have seemed out of reach for some students.  This program is going to open up doors.  Take a look at what Skype has to offer by visiting their site and then clicking on the "Hour of Code" section. 

We look forward to our next speaker, Sanjay Raghani, Software Development Engineer at Skype on December 4.

Around the World in One Day

It still amazes me sometimes how easy it is to connect with other classrooms as far away as the opposite end of the Earth with simply a click of a button.  On Tuesday, our students had the chance to travel the world using Skype.  Within hours Mrs. Berglund's students connected with schools in France and Spain.  Fifth grade Integrated Technology students also did a Mystery Skype with a class from St. Angela School in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Our day began with a planned Mystery Skype with students located in Lyon, France.  Technical difficulties in France forced us change our plan to a simple question-and-answer session.  This turned out to be even more exciting for students in both locations as they were very anxious to learn more about one another and their respective cultures.  The students in France were especially surprised to learn that students here were allowed to chew gum at school and carry cell phones.

Our next stop took us to Cuenca, Spain.  This time Mrs. Berglund's 7th graders engaged in a traditional Mystery Skype.  It took us awhile to figure out the other class's location, but our students' diligence using Google Maps paid off with a successful ending.

Our final tour took my 5th grade Integrated Technology class to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  My students quickly guessed our partner's location, but the extra time allowed for us to ask Mr. Wasik's class questions about what life was like there.  The -5 below zero temperature and the snow piled up on the ground did not slow this class down! (Thanks, Mr. Wasik for a peek outside of your window).

In today's world students can do more than just read about other cultures.  Skype, and Skype in the Classroom in particular, has made it possible for students to easily virtually connect with someone living in a different country.  The connections that we experienced on this day gave all students a peek into daily life that no textbook could give.