When I was in primary school (and secretly even today) I loved when visitors came into the classroom, or when we took field trips (even if it was just to the playground), or if we got to talk with another class, and it is these experiences that I remember the most vividly, because it got me excited about learning something new. By using the free video calling service Skype you have an amazing way of bringing people in to be the teacher for a day even if they’re miles away. The first time I heard about using Skype in the classroom was from Teach Hub, Annie Condron wrote an article about the cool ways to use Skype in the classroom, and it blew my mind because she explained that students can connect with the world from the comfort of their own classroom via Skype.
Having someone come into the classroom and having someone visit via Skype are almost one and the same – You, as a teacher, need to plan accordingly. Since this is the first time the students will be seeing someone else’s face all day they’re going to be excited, so the idea is to take that excitement and turn it into something productive. In Sylvia Rosenthal’s blog Langwitches she explains how you can take this seemingly random (educational) lesson, and create an assessment from it. And who doesn’t love assessments that aren’t tests? And thus, Taxonomy of a Skype conversation was born! As you can see in the picture off to the right, Rosenthal’s aim is to use Skype as a means of teaching students how to improve presentation skills, interviewing skills, collaboration skills and so many more.
However, teaching a group of students how to give a phenomenal presentation doesn’t matter if they don’t remember why they were doing it. As with any lesson there should be a planned outcome for the task. Again Sylvia Rosenthal comes to the rescue with ideas to implement this so that this wonderful tool doesn’t fall by the wayside. The image below is one of the slides in her document Framing a Skype Call, which suggests ways to make the experience more memorable and education than an isolated event that they remember as fun but not useful.
I could rant on and on about how amazing Skype is when used in a classroom setting, but the video below offers a goofier,greater and groovier summary.
Now hold up, the guy they were Skyping with drew something and it showed up on the whiteboard in the classroom?! What is this sorcery?! That is right, there are a plethora of add-ons to Skype that are simply amazing! You should check out these Eleven must have free add-ons for Skype to make the experience a million times better. The program used by Mike Artell in the video is called IDroo, and they tailor this tool for effective online tutoring, brainstorming and exchanging doodles between friends. Sadly, though, this program is only available for Windows, and would require some sort of digital tablet in addition to Skype. Tell me what you think, is there an experience you had that could be replicated on Skype? What are the pros and cons that immediately pop out at you when you think of this teaching style?
Feel free to read a few of the blog posts that I’ll link below to learn more about what other people’s experience with Skype is in the classroom. I guarantee you’ll learn things you never thought you would.
- Author Skype visit’s the classroom – One fifth grade gets the chance to meet more famous than I probably ever will. Read about how these students go crazy about these authors. Definitely worth it, trust me.
- How Teachers Are Bringing the World to Their Students via Skype in the Classroom – How a teacher helped her bi-lingual fifth grade class overcome their fear of public speaking, and how another teacher found pen pals no more than a mile away. Just give it a chance, it can spark an idea in you to use this in your classroom.
- Skype in the Classroom -I know this is the actual website of the creators, but it gives pretty sweet opportunities to Skype users to connect with others. I’d say it’s worth at least a gander, I mean, how can you resist when they say “mystery Skype call”! (hint check out the links at the bottom).