Skype in the Classroom

File:Skype bw.png

A few interesting links about using Skype in your classroom:

  • What is Skype? — explanation provided by a digital literacy class exploring the possibilities of Web 2.0 technologies
  • What’s been done with Skype?
    • 5th grade class in NY connects with the world and shares their experiences
    • 4th grade class in Hannibal, MO learns Spanish while ESOL student learns English, plays math games with another class across the US, and keeps up a long-distance connection with classroom in England
    • PE teacher in Australia invites expert dietitian to talk with students about making healthy choices
    • technology teacher shares Aussie customs with classroom in Russia, ends up on Russian TV
  • How can I find people with whom I can Skype?
    • Ask.  You may be surprised at who says yes.  Contact an old professor, a colleague in another district, someone you meet at a conference, almost anyone who can get to a computer.  If you’re hesitant because of the setup, drop a note to your local, friendly educational tech support person.
    • Participate in a social network, like Classroom 2.0 or ePals, and start a thread requesting to start a collaborative connection (like this one).
    • Visit one of these sites:
      • Skype in Schools : a directory of people across the US who are interested in connecting with others
      • Skype in the Classroom: a place to peruse the “want ads” of Skyping educators.  Add your name to the list by adding a comment.
    • Send a note to this gal in Australia, who wants to contact 80 countries over the next year.  She should have some international contacts soon!

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Update (1/5/09):

As I’ve been thinking about this topic again, I’d like to update this page with a few more ideas and links:

1)  Small features, big impact:  Some of the features of Skype I left off above compromise a large part of what makes Skype my tool of choice (besides the fact that it’s the only district-approved IM client).  I’ve often used:

  • the ‘Send File’ feature to quickly transfer files to my colleagues
  • the ‘Share your screen’ feature to compliment video conferences I’m doing or to illustrate a set of steps to a teacher or colleague
  • the IM feature to ask brief questions

2)  A big idea behind the effectiveness of Skype is that of a purposeful, authentic audience.  The best Skype projects I’ve seen have been those that include a meaningful context.  In one notable example, two Spanish teachers, one at the middle school and one at the high school, managed to have time where upper-level Spanish 5 students had common time with incoming 8th grade students.

These teachers used the opportunity of overlapping time to host a “Get to know West High” session, where the senior students created engaging skits that would introduce the next year’s freshmen to life in high school — all in the target language.  The highlight of the time was a “live interview”, in Spanish, with the 8th graders’ future principal.

3) Skype isn’t the only player in the voice over IP (VOIP) world.  Other web-based technologies (which don’t involve an install) are cropping up.

Thanks to Jim Sarris, a Spanish teacher in New York, one of the Spanish teachers in my district has been able to allow her students to talk one on one with students from Mexico, practicing their Spanish with native speakers through a website called Tokbox.

Richard Byrne recently wrote a great post on other sites that are springing up to make video conference even more accessible to the classroom.

image courtesy of DBGthekafu

4 comments

  1. Just found langwitches.org! It answers many of the questions that are popping up in my head for a library blog. The more I read, the more questions are answered. Maybe creating a blog for my 5th graders with Mark Twain nominees will be enough for the first year.

  2. I’m interested in Skype. I just haven’t had time to look into it. But I’m glad you brought it to my attention. I guess this is what summer is for!

  3. Drew,
    I got in touch with you via the Skype teacher directory. I teach Spanish and I am looking to collaborate with another Spanish teacher. I teach in Ohio/Sp3. Any interest in your school for this kind of project?

    1. Sherry, I know a few teachers who may be interested. Drop me an e-mail (on my ‘about’ page) and let me know what sort of conversations you’re interested in!

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