‘Expanding ‘Souls, Minds and Horizons’ with Skype – Iro Stefopoulou, Greece

Our teacher was interviewed by Antony Salcito, the Vice President of Education for Microsoft Corporation’s Worldwide Public Sector

“Expanding ‘Souls, Minds and Horizons’ with Skype in the Classroom – Iro Stefopoulou, Greece

As a teacher I feel that I have to give meaning to the aim and the process of learning, and I strongly believe that technology has transformed the way both teachers and students communicate and perceive the world,” says Iro Stefopoulou. “[Technology] has transformed my students into more enthusiastic learners.”

For Stefopoulou, a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and Skype Master Teacher, learning a language is not just about diction and vocabulary, it’s about broadening her students’ world.

Skype has been a lifeline for Stefopoulou and her students, allowing them to connect with distant classrooms. “Through our global connections and learning, the borders of our small town seem non-existent as we communicate in real time with school children from all over the world who are doing various activities and projects.”

One such project is Project LINC – a joint project with Daily Edventures alum and teacher Stacey Ryan – where students from both classes (Greece and Kansas) worked together via Skype to bring clean water to 525 students in Nairobi, Kenya.

“My goal in every lesson is to create a unique learning experience for my students and I believe that technology can definitely help me accomplish it and help my students thrive,” adds Stefopoulou. “My goal is to inspire my students to reach their fullest potential and technology is my weapon!”

Enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Iro Stefopoulou!

What inspired you to become an educator?

I am not one of these educators who always knew they wanted to be teachers; the educational system in Greece didn’t provide students with any career orientation at least during my school years. Students sit for exams and, depending on their grades, they have to choose their university path and future job.

I can say that I was a good student so when I had to choose, I decided to become an educator out of luck and instinct – and not a lawyer, although my grades were really good.

During my undergraduate years, I discovered that this was the right job for me and I feel really lucky now that I can give my full potential to teaching. I found out that I have a passion and hunger for learning and I wanted to share my knowledge and enthusiasm with students.

When I started working I knew that I was meant to be a teacher and my students’ enthusiasm and laugh still inspire me to become a better teacher every day and find ways to motivate, inspire and encourage them to strive for success.

What was a defining moment in your career when you felt proudest to be an educator?

Teaching English as a foreign language to Greek students and seeing them developing as language learners always makes me really proud of them. However, I passionately believe in creativity and its power because all kids can be creative and learn when given the right incentives.

Why do you feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom?
I clearly remember our first global project, three years ago; my students researched Christmas traditions in Greece (decoration, food, weather, presents, stories). They interviewed each other and recorded videos, they created PowerPoint presentations, sang songs and created a video where they guided tourists in a Christmas-themed park in our town. In the end, they shared everything with schools around the world using Skype.

Through this project, and similar projects we have participated in, not only do my students benefit from using English, but they also become citizens of the world, get to learn facts and problems concerning other communities, the natural world, traditions, customs, and so on. Global connections prepare them to live or travel abroad when they become older.

What’s the biggest obstacle you or your country or region has had to overcome, or will have to overcome, to ensure a quality education for students?
Money and limited funds in schools is a huge problem in Greece as schools are not well equipped but also the fear of adopting technology in the classroom. Teachers should realize that even bringing a personal laptop in their classroom can make a difference if it is used properly.

What are you most excited about for the future? What is your biggest hope for today’s students?
My ambition for my students is to develop all the necessary 21st-century skills in order to keep abreast of everything they will encounter in their educational, professional and personal lives.

Being a Skype Master Teacher and a global learning enthusiast makes me feel really excited about all the global connections that take place in my classroom through Skype in the classroom. My students today can think beyond the walls of our classroom and every connection or project they participate in can expand their souls, minds and horizons and create thinkers, leaders and doers.

I really hope that today’s students – by being exposed to both the technological and real world – will be able to understand the needs and problems of other people, and be able to think critically and provide feasible solutions in the future as adults.

Iro Stefopoulou

English Teacher, School Master
Trikala, Greece

  • Blog URL: http://iro.clubefl.gr/
  • Birthplace: Trikala, Greece
  • Educational background: BA English Language and Literature, MA in Education
  • Website I check every day: Edutopia, Microsoft Educator Network
  • Favorite childhood memory: Spending time with my sisters
  • Favorite book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
  • Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: Skype, OneNote and Sway
  • What is the best advice you have ever received? “Be patient, work hard and never stop dreaming.”

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