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Actor Michael Sheen Skyped schoolchildren in Wales for Microsoft event

Hollywood actor Michael Sheen has talked to schoolchildren in Wales as part of a Microsoft event aimed at connecting people across the world via Skype.

The BAFTA-winning star of Frost/Nixon, who was born in Newport, sent and received video messages with pupils at Ysgol Bae Baglan School in Port Talbot for this year’s Skype-a-Thon on November 29 and 30.

Sheen is currently filming his latest movie in Los Angeles, and the 5,300 miles each of his messages travelled went towards Skype’s total target of three million virtual miles.


The Skype-a-Thon aimed to help classrooms around the world learn from each other by using video calls to chat to guest speakers or go on virtual field trips. Youngsters from dozens of different countries took part last year.

This year, Michel Van der Bel, President of Microsoft in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, will Skype pupils at Cornerstone C of E Primary School, in Whiteley, Hampshire. The children will also be holding video calls with the captain of the county’s cricket team, James Adams.

Cindy Rose, Chief Executive of Microsoft UK, will speak to Caludon Castle School in Coventry.

As well as hearing from Sheen, pupils at Ysgol Bae Baglan School:

  • Sent videos of themselves singing the Welsh national anthem to schoolchildren around the world, who then sent theirs back.
  • Embarked on a virtual field trip with educator and researcher Jean Pennycook, who is studying penguins in Antarctica. Other trips involved Yellowstone National Park, America’s first national park; an elephant sanctuary; and Lisbon Zoo
  • Spoke to a Second World War veteran via Skype

Three players from Ospreys, one of Europe’s top rugby teams, were also at the school to join in on some of the Skype calls.

Kids, classroom, skype

Paul Watkins, Information and Communications Technology teacher at Ysgol Bae Baglan, said: “When I used Skype in the classroom for the first time during Skype-a-Thon last year I could never have imagined the impact it was going to have on my pupils through the year ahead. Not only does it enrich teaching and learning within curriculum areas, it allows pupils to develop essential life skills, while promoting a deeper understanding and appreciation of global citizenship. This helps pupils realise they are part of something big – and they have an important part to play in it.”

Last year’s Skype-a-Thon clocked up more than three million virtual miles by connecting schools in countries including the UK, India, the US, Brazil, Chile, Greece, France, South Africa, Australia and the Dominican Republic.

Virginia Esteves, a teacher in Brazil who took part in last year’s event, said: Skype-a-thon brought energy, knowledge and motivation to my class. Instead of the usual book, we open “windows” to the world. Suddenly we were face to face, sharing and eager to learn more with our peers. I’m sure my pupils learn more in these 60 minute lessons than in [a whole] month. They connected with a real situation [in] the world around them. It was a full bucket of knowledge and active citizenship.”

Tammy Dunbar, a teacher from the US, said: “Skype-a-thon ignited my students’ enthusiasm to discover as many new places and meet as many new people as they could. Best of all, they learned the whole world is their classroom.”

Schools can find out more about this year’s Skype-a-thon, by clicking here.


Skype recently opened up its service so even people without accounts can chat to each other for free.

“By joining Skype as a guest, you can quickly chat, voice or video call without any hassle. It’s perfect if you’re new to Skype and want to quickly chat with someone, anywhere in the world, for free,” Skype said.

Guests can invite up to 300 people to chat or as many as 25 to a voice or video call, where they can also share their screen and files.

Users need to go to Skype.com, click on “start a conversation” and enter their name to get a unique conversation link. They can then share this link with anyone via email or social networks. As soon as the recipients click on the link they will join the conversation and can start chatting.