Field trips, guest speakers and pen pals can all present unique challenges for teachers of middle and high schoolers. Pulling out students from different classes to attend a trip to a museum or scheduling an assembly for an expert to speak about a topic aren’t always feasible tasks.
Thanks to communication tools like Skype, teachers can connect teens to professionals, educators and classrooms around the world. This technology can help students make connections to what they are learning in the classroom, build their background knowledge, and encourage them to ask questions. Not only will you be introducing an exciting way for teens to communicate, using Skype with students will expand their horizons and introduce them to new people and ideas.
What is Skype?
Skype is a technology tool that allows users to make video and audio calls using an Internet connection. Its most basic and essential features are free for users. Each person has a unique Skype ID similar to an email address or phone number. After accepting a person’s invitation to connect, you can send a request for an audio or video call. Skype will use the microphone or webcam on your device to make the call possible. It is often used to replace the fees and inconvenience associated with making international calls. Skype can be accessed from a computer, tablet or smartphone.
How is it being used in classrooms?
Teachers are using Skype in lots of ways. Instead of inviting a guest speaker to their school, teachers are asking these individuals to donate an hour of their time for a Skype call. This eliminates speaking fees, travel costs, and the time associated with planning a large assembly or event. This could be a college professor who could answer your students’ questions about oceanography, the author of a favorite novel, or a former student. Skype can also be used to connect with a class of students from another school – whether they are across town or in another time zone. If taking students on a field trip isn’t doable for financial or logistical reasons, perhaps the docent of a museum or friend who is traveling overseas can Skype with your class.
What tips are important for teachers to know?
Be prepared — make sure you’ve downloaded Skype and done a test call before trying it out with your class.
Pay attention to time zones – The great part about Skype is being able to connect with people around the globe, make sure to double check your time zones when scheduling the call.
Don’t be afraid to ask – It doesn’t hurt to reach out to subject matter experts on Twitter, email a professor from a faraway college, or ask a former colleague or friend to Skype with your classroom. Many people are already familiar with Skype and the learning curve is fairly small.
Have you used Skype before? Who would you like to Skype with?
Monica Burns is an Education Consultant, EdTech Blogger, and Apple Distinguished Educator. Visit her site ClassTechTips.com for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.