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…