24 Hour Skype-a-thon #PVSkype24

Eyes lit up with each ring ring of each Skype call. They grew even wider when they saw the faces on the other end. Many of those faces looked the same or familiar while others looked different, but one thing that they all had in common was they were kids eager and ready to learn and exchange.

This was nothing new to some students, calls like this happen everyday in our room. We exchange video messages & letters, blog, and participate in Skype sessions with students all over the globe throughout the year. What was unique about it was happening for continuously for 24 hours.

As I started a new year of planning another Skype-a-thon, I looked back to things that went well last year. One positive that came out of it was Nickels for Nepal, our fundraiser to provide aid to our friends in Nepal after the earthquake. Students had the opportunity to learn much more about the environment, culture and global issues surrounding Nepal due to the project. While doing Nickels for Nepal it hit me that my students were not aware of the global issues affecting Nepal and they expressed an interest in knowing more about problems that their peers faced around the world. It was in doing Nickels for Nepal the students at Pine Valley Elementary actually started thinking beyond their everyday lives. They learned about the limited amount of time they have access to water during the span of a day, the amount of poverty in Nepal, the land forms and much more.

With that spirit in mind, once the new school year started, the students listed questions they wanted to learn about during their 24 hour journey. Ironically the questions were heavily intertwined with their concerns over the environment, water, hunger and poverty. It became clear they were eager to learn why kids in Africa didn’t have clean water and other kids didn’t have electricity or the right to go to school, but more importantly they wanted to find solutions to these problems that affect them and their peers everyday.

There were many highlights for me this year. Seeing familiar faces of both educators and students we talked with last year made this journey more special.  In addition we connected  with many new classrooms that we now proudly refer to as our “our new friends in____ .” Not a day has gone by when we don’t refer to, think about, make a connection, or acknowledge exchanges between all the diverse faces we spoke to during those 24 hours.

With each session, the revelation of new information captivated us on our journey. For instance in Serbia we discovered dentists are a part of the staff at each school,  Iceland uses the underground volcanoes to warm their water and El Nino is an issue impacting the country  of Venezuela, causing alligators to come closer to houses and villages while India recycles their water. In New Zealand for instance we had the chance to reconnect with a few students who we met last year. One of which, Ashley, shared with us that she now has a toilet trained goat. Seriously ! (Check out this vimeo of Ashley, Aroha and Snowy the Goat.)  During our stop in South Korea we finally were able to meet our video Mystery Skype buddies face to face. The moments and special connections were priceless and honestly too numerous to list.

Security was surprisingly one of the topics brought up repeatedly from children in Venezuela, Mexico and California. The students passionately expressed a need and a want for a safer place to play during school. This really hit home with students on my side of the camera as I saw their heads drop on several occasions as they realized the kids in time zones close to them had issues that were extremely different. At the same time, the students shared many similarities.  These conversations keep the students in both countries thinking, comparing, and contrasting.

One of the most memorable ones for me was our skype session with Nepal. Emotions were high even before we started the skype because we had well-formed connections in the school. During the skype session we connected with older students who were actually part of the rebuilding process since the earthquake. Our students took turns sharing how they raised money last year through bake sales, during car drop off and pick up at school and even their own piggy banks. The students in Nepal shared what a blessing it was in the days after the earthquake to have the support from hundreds of organizations and people around the world.  The Nepal students were thrilled to be able to actually see the students in our classes who had helped fund drinking water for their school. That was a special moment!

During the day, the students participated in various global ed lessons and activities thanks to the wonderful staff and educators from Pine Valley Elementary and the Watson School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. They rolled up their sleeves to make this day special for all the students that participated in a Skype session. One of the activities was a Thinking Wall where students posted several questions they could ponder throughout the journey.


Building this global mindset can and should happen spontaneously and intentionally every day. All it takes is a will and a webcam and instantly the only purpose for walls around a classroom is to keep the bugs out!

Again, an event of this magnitude would not be possible without the assistance and support from my wonderful colleagues and parents at Pine Valley; Dr. Tim Markley, our superintendent; my administration who encourages teachers to follow their passion in creating these “out of the box” events.  And no techy educator would be successful without the wonderful technology department of New Hanover County Schools. This department always finds creative solutions for all the tech needs to ensure that teachers can integrate meaningful technology into the daily curriculum.

In the end, it’s not a matter of the duration of the call, but it’s about building the mindset that differences make us great. We need to embrace and celebrate the diversity of our classrooms and our schools and take the opportunity to show our students how beautiful and diverse the world is. It’s imperative that the children learn that they can be a part of making the world a better place. It begins with the first ring ring… the first Skype session…

During the 24 hours, students raised $1495.00 from pledges for every hour they were awake, to increase awareness for the American Red Cross and to bring aid to places in need. This money will benefit our new friends that we met around the world during our brief time together through Skype. The information we shared and learned can possibly be the catalyst to fix the global problems that we discussed.  Lots of information was shared during the 24 hours with 37 classes around the world.  

Awareness is the first step in creating plans to improve global issues.

“Skype classrooms” are aware, are you?


View the @storify from our 24 hour journey here.

Pine Valley’s 24 Hour Skype-a-thon https://storify.com/beverlyladd/pine-valley-24-hour-skype-a-thon-57116e4b12a20b661b0b7923 via @bevladd


A Bridge to Nepal

A Bridge to Nepal

This year my class, along with my school, united and raised money for the British International School of Kathmandu in Nepal that was affected by earthquakes shortly after my 24 hour Skype-a-thon ( #PVSkype24 ) in March. It was very rewarding and successful due to the connection the students had while learning and sharing with the Nepalese students during our Skype session. The kids and I were very grateful to be able to help out and give back to a school that does charity work in surrounding villages.

Beckham Nickelsnickelsfinal

At the same time, in the back of my mind, I was always thinking about how to help Govinda Panthy, another teacher in Nepal whom I had come to know through my PLN. Govinda has a passion for bringing the world to his students through Skype. I wanted to be able to help Govinda and his school, but knew I couldn’t do both.

During the time my kids and I were fundraising for Nepal, I was delighted and honored to learn that Microsoft was sending me to ISTE! I could hardly wait to meet, connect with, learn from and share with other educators from around the world.

Skip ahead three months. It is just 8 days before the start of ISTE.  I’m chatting with Govinda over Skype, and it hits me like a cannonball. Why can’t I Skype with him at ISTE? I am going to be sharing the benefits of Skype with other educators. What better way to demonstrate the power of making connections and how Skype brings the world to students than by bringing my friend Govinda, 8,000 miles away to them?

The sudden realization that Skyping with Govinda would be a wonderful way to not only demonstrate the power of global connections via Skype, but perhaps get Govinda some much needed support feels like only the latest step in a wonderful journey I’ve been taking as an educator. I feel as if I have a path and purpose, and I am blessed to be able to use my skills and talents to help those who are less fortunate than I.

A Global Call to Nepal from ISTE

So if you’re in the in the Exhibit Hall near the Microsoft/Skype Booth around 9:30 on Wednesday stop by to speak to Govinda and ask him how he uses Skype in the Classroom to connect his students to the world. Ask him how Skype has changed his class and his school, and what you can do to help. To learn more about Govinda, his remarkable school and how you can help, visit: https://www.pledgecents.com/cause/lltkrs/bridge2nepal


Nickels for Nepal

“No Act of Kindness, No Matter How Small, Is Ever Wasted.” ~ Aesop


Have you ever watched one of those commercials where you are asked to donate to help for children in poverty stricken areas or aid with abused animals? Those commercials have new meaning to me since working on Nickels for Nepal. During our 24 hour Skype-a-thon we had the opportunity to learn from a class in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was an extraordinary 30 minutes that I will never forget.

During our skype session they taught us many things showing us some Napelise rupees and even took us on a tour of their school;  all of this through Skype.

The class during our 24 hour Skype-a-thon

A few weeks later they were hit with an 7.8 earthquake that forever changed the feelings of stability of it’s people as well as the physical destruction of the landscapes. Many historical structures and building that have been standing for hundreds of years were left in rubbles. Homes and lives destroyed leaving only memories of what once was a vital part of their lives.

The week following the quake led to many conversations of concern for our new found friends in Nepal all coming back to the same question, “What can we do?”.  It was out of these discussions and questions that “Nickels for Nepal” was started. We wanted to do our part now matter how small to help rebuild and aid our friends whose school was being used as a shelter and food distribution site.

On Thursday, my class discussed the plan and came up with a goal of $200.00 and our school goal was $1,000 during the month of May. To my surprise the following morning, students walked in with bags of money to contribute before the coin drive had even started; mostly savings from Christmas, birthdays, chores and piggy banks. It was rewarding and exciting to see how the students connected to their friends in Nepal. Although a brief 30 minutes of connection on Skype, the friendships and connections are forever in our children’s minds and hearts.  This was a true example of what a global classroom can do! I was so proud of my 2nd graders for thinking of others before themselves.

The first week my class raised $152.24 and the school raised $676.00. The outpouring of generosity and support from students was so tremendous. Students and families of Pine Valley held all kinds of unique projects from bake sales, collections at church, to love donations to help our cause. It was truly humbling to see.

The second week we were more motivated than ever after hearing that Nepal had once again been hit by another major earthquake. Through conversations with my friend, Sunny at the British International School in Kathmandu, we learned that Nepal does not have running water like we do in the USA. The water in Nepal is government rationed in major cities and limited to wells and waterfalls in out lying areas. We ended the week with a bang with #FillItFriday. The students created posters to hold during car drop off and car pickup on Friday as our amazing parent volunteers helped collect coins. With the help of media promoting our project, we collected over $700 from our morning drop off. Our total at the end of week two was 1,875.20.

By our third week, we were so appreciative of everything the students and the community of Pine Valley had done , we believed that any more money collected was just an added bonus.  And the end of the week three we had a grand total of $2,294.45. That afternoon some students took the opportunity to find out how much milk, cheese and water after converting dollars into Nepalese Rupees. It was a great learning opportunity for them to see the value of objects from another country on the opposite side of the world. Throughout the last week news of our project continued spread through social media and we even received a donation from California to add to our total.

As I stood at the bank for the last time, I remembered all those faces each morning as they willingly and lovingly made their contribution for their new found friends in Nepal. They sacrificed ice cream money, piggy banks and allowances all for the greater good. What a wonderful life lesson… The entire offering at the end of May was $2,405.26, which surpassed any goal I could have imagined possible.

This project shows how a school, of any size or demographic make up, can come together to make a difference. Nickels for Nepal demonstrates how even the smallest ripple can make a difference to create waves in our great big pond.

24 Hour Skype-a-thon

24 Hour Skype-a-thon


Have you ever wanted to learn from other people around the world? Students from Pine Valley Elementary who participated in our 24 hour Skype-a-thon did just that. We skyped for 24 hours straight to reach as many students in 26 different countries all over the world.

I started using Skype in the classroom about 5 years ago, as I wanted to connect my students to the world and give them opportunities to learn and collaborate. Since I started using Skype in the classroom my students have become more aware of global issues and have a greater appreciation for the differences they see with other children from other locations.

Read the rest of the blog here.