The Sky’s the Limit with Skype

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connecting classrooms

connecting classrooms

We’re willing to pay thousands for computers, interactive whiteboards, the latest software, document cameras, and digital video cameras. Yet, how much are we willing to pay to connect classroom to classroom, school to school, district to district, state to state, or even country to country?  What is the value of being able to interview content experts or authors, conduct discussions or debates, or collaborate in real-time?

We did it today.  Once my friend and I each bought a $50 web cam and installed Skype, we connected from school to school with ease.  I was thoroughly impressed by the clarity of the audio and video feed.  All you need is free Skype software, Internet access, a microphone and speaker (the web cam is optional to send video along with the audio).  I just used the speaker from the laptop and the microphone from the web cam.

Imagine the possibilities!  Connecting and collaborating are key 21st century skills.  It struck me as odd that this tool has not been marketed more often for education.  And I wondered where I’ve been.  How could I have missed this?  I really haven’t heard much more about Skype since I returned from the VSTE Conference in February.  Yet, as Alan November reminded us at the VASCD Conference, we need to teach students to connect with real people across the curriculum.

 So is $50 worth connecting classrooms of kids from around the world?  I’d say so!  In the 21st century, we can’t afford not to…

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2 responses »

  1. Since returning from the VASCD conference I have been critically reflecting on my own classroom and It was one of those “Ah ha” moments to be in on the fun with the webcam today. To see a few of my fellow teachers excited about the learning possibilities and to instantly have ideas about how to incorporate students in this fun and learning was very uplifting for me. I could imagine the student excitement and also how to infuse ideas into the classrooms all over school. I have been thinking all week how to create a few changes to transform more of my classroom. I feel I have been open to possibilities and ideas but I still feel I am too teacher centered. This is exciting stuff and would love to hear from others how it works in their classrooms. How do you fit learning into 45 minutes? We get started and all of a sudden the bell rings and students have to go to the next room. How do you find the time to collaborate with teachers? How are students able to become part of the real planning when they have so many responsibilities at school and so many classes? How are teachers collaborating to help students become 21st learners?

  2. I believe we are all too teacher centered. Even though we know the benefits of giving students choice and direction, the “guide on the side” role is quite unfamiliar to us. We’ve really never seen it in action. Of course, the constraints of the classroom, such as time limits, also come into play. The 45 minute periods can lead to more superficial activities.

    I loved the excitement that we saw today from the other teachers. We need to capitalize on this!

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