Skype in the classroom

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.

A guide on how to use Skype calls as an assessment

A guide on how to use Skype calls as an assessment

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.

Framing a Skype call to make the learning more substantial

Framing a Skype call to make the learning more substantial

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).
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This entry was posted in Assessing student work, Collaborating, Communicating, Cool tool. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Skype in the classroom

  1. Victoria B. says:

    Thanks for sharing, Kelly! I really enjoyed skyping with the elementary schoolers in class the other day and it appeared as though they really enjoyed it too! As a student, I also loved it when we had class visitors. Since professionals are always so busy and don’t have time to take trips to schools, I think that using Skype would be a great alternative. Although it wouldn’t be the same as having someone actually in the class, students would end up having more opportunities to “meet” and speak with guests. While I would much prefer to have a guest speaker in my classroom, I would definitely be open to using Skype as an alternative if needed.

    • Tabitha C. says:

      I love the way you wrote this, Kelly! It made it very entertaining to read. Skype is a great tool to use in the classroom, as we saw last class when we Skyped with the elementary school. I agree with you, Victoria, that I prefer to have people in person, but if that is not an option, then Skype is a good backup plan!

  2. B. Taylor says:

    Here are a few extra links from Skype in the Classroom site Kelly mentioned.

    And finally, a special link for Aaron and Steph (and the rest of you too), see this e-net post about an Elon TF alum/HS history teacher and Elon history professors: Professors offer lessons via Skype to high school students.

  3. Mary F. says:

    I really enjoyed your post Kelly! As Victoria said skyping the 4th/5th graders the other day was so much fun. It was really cool to be able to talk back and forth fluently instead of sending emails to people and having to wait for people to respond. It is also great that you can do this in your classroom! No need to go anywhere, get transportation, or parents to come in and supervise. This is such a great way to make your classroom more exciting and still learn a ton. Thanks for this great post!

  4. Anna B. says:

    Wow Kelly! I have never thought of using Skype in these ways!! Who knew you could assess students just by using Skype!? I think that is such a neat and creative idea. I remember in high school in my psychology class we Skyped with a researcher one time, but other than that I had never thought about Skype in the classroom until I came to Elon last year. At Elon there have been multiple instances where my class has Skyped a writer, researcher, speaker, or elementary school classrooms, but I can honestly say that I had never thought about using Skype in an elementary school classroom until recently. I know that personally it still amazes me that you can see and talk to someone that may be thousands of miles away through a computer, so I know it would amaze young children as well! This post has so many great ideas for using Skype in a classroom that I definitely want to expose my future students to! Thanks!

  5. Maria H. says:

    Kelly, I have done some research on Skyping in the classroom as well for my wiki that our class has been working on. I planned an entire conversation with other classes and looked up some cool websites that connect classrooms around the world. Langwitches is the blog I used to look up basic Skyping skills as well. We’ve done so much of the same things! I’m very excited to try this in my own classroom. Thanks for posting!

  6. Chelsea R. says:

    I thinks our Skype session with the two classrooms in another example of how this is a great idea. Being college students the elementary students look up to us and think that we are “cooler” and they will more likely listen to us.

  7. Sara R. says:

    Again, I can really hear your voice in your writing–great job with that! And I agree that Skype is an especially effective tool in the classroom. I remember in fifth grade, we had pen pals with a fifth grade class in Australia. One time, we even recorded videos to send to one another, and I remember thinking that it was one of the most technologically advanced things that could be. But now, with the capability to chat with one another in real time, despite the distance, is absolutely incredible and can increase the rate at which students can receive information about life in another place from a primary source.

  8. Katie H. says:

    Great post as usual Kelly! I had never thought about incorporating Skype into the classroom before we did it in class, even though I have used Skype in my French class in high school. I think it is an amazing tool that more teachers should use for their students. It allows students to talk with authors, professionals or students in other schools and have conversations that they may not have gotten the chance to have in person. I will definitely use Skype in my classroom because it is a tool that all students need to be familiar with. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Angie E. says:

    Thanks for another great post Kelly! LIke everyone else, I really enjoyed skyping the 4th and 5th graders last week. I think Skype is a great way to bring visitors into the classrooms, especially at schools where families may not have the resources to take many field trips. I also love that Skype can bring professionals or speakers into the classroom, who students might otherwise not interact with. These visitors can expose students to professions they might have never considered otherwise. Also thanks for pointing out those awesome free add-ons!

  10. Steph G. says:

    Great job Kelly! Like others have said, I really enjoyed skyping with the 4th and 5th graders in class the other day! I never thought about it being used in the classroom, but it would definitely be very useful! It is a great way to expand the horizons of many students, like Angie said about, Skype can “bring” professionals into the classroom to help students learn more. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  11. Chelsea S. says:

    This is such a great post, Kelly! I totally agree that Skype is an awesome tool to use within classrooms. One of the ways I have heard Skype being used was from a friend whose teacher was absent but was able to Skype with the class so they didn’t miss a day of lecture. Another way I have heard Skype being used was in my high school when one of the students had Leukemia. I’m not sure of the specifics or anything, she was a grade above me, but I do know at one point she skyped into multiple classes so she could catch up with the material and not fall behind.

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