We were surprised by their long school days, they admired our blazers and ties, writes pupil Chloe Spencer
Most days, most school pupils find themselves sitting in a classroom with the teacher presenting a lesson at the front. But recently at my school, a lesson appeared from half way across the globe. The teacher was trying a new educational technique: Skype.
Our English class linked up with Chinese students from a language school on the coast of Qingdao in China. The aim of the lesson was to learn first hand about life across the globe.
During the Skype conversation, a student from each country took turns to ask questions about life and education overseas. How much homework do you do? What’s your school uniform like? What do you do in your spare time? And how do you celebrate Christmas?
I learned that a Chinese student has a 12-hour school day and around three hours of homework a night. When we spoke, the students had already finished their long day in the classroom and stayed behind to talk to us. It didn’t sound like they had much spare time.
There weren’t just differences in timetables – the Chinese students were surprised by our smart uniforms. While we were jealous of their tracksuit style uniform, they admired our shirt, tie and blazers.
Henri Li, a student at EF language school in Qingdao, says: “I learned so many things during our Skype meeting, and found out many interesting differences between our education systems. For example, they have a lot less homework than us and a lot more free time. They are very lucky. I hope we can have many more chances to meet up on Skype again, as it is very useful.”
Cindy Yu, another student at the school, says: “We got really excited when it began, everyone stood up and we sang our national song. It seemed that both they and we were happy to see each other.
“We were all very shy at the very beginning, but we found that they were friendly and interesting so we started to ask questions. There were many common questions like ‘what kinds of sport do you like?’ or ‘which computer games do you like to play?’ and it was interesting to hear the answers.”
The English students were shocked to learn that if a Chinese pupil gets their phone out in class, the teacher keeps it for anything up to two years before they are given it back.
It surprised the Chinese students to hear that at our school students are allowed to get their phones out as part of our Bring Your Own Browser campaign. We use them to research things during lesson time, to improve and enrich our understanding.
Jason Wing, the principal of the Neale-Wade academy in Cambridgeshire where I go to school, says the event was intended “to have some type of educational value and not just to be a gimmick, to actually add something to the lesson.”
Because chatting about school uniform and homework is just the start. Classrooms around the world could be using Skype as a tool for learning.
Wing says: “I think we could have selective links to other subject areas, and have it set up so that both countries and groups can learn something from it and incorporate it a lot more.”
One of the organisers of our Skype lesson, Lindsey Waggitt, points out: “We are very lucky to be part of an age where teachers have the imagination, technology and the school’s support to link up with countries around the world.”
Fellow organiser Scott Gaskins adds: “It will change how lessons are taught. There are a plethora of established, published writers out there, for example, who advertise themselves on Skype Education and will talk to classes for 30 minutes at a time.
“I also think that teachers from other schools will be Skyping in lessons, to teach as specialists.”
Geography students could use Skype to interact with people who have experienced earthquakes or hurricanes, which would help them understand how extreme natural events affect real people, rather than read about them in the pages of a text book.
Specialist teachers could give classes to students on the other side of the world. Students could gain an insight into different ways of learning.
One Skype lesson opened my eyes to another culture. Have your teachers or lecturers started using it yet?