Beyond the Classroom, Skyping With Students

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As an instructional technology consultant I have the opportunity to see first hand how teachers are collaborating in their classrooms. I get to see lessons in action, the things that go well, the things that don’t go well, and the things that make educators cringe when it comes to using technology with students.

One of the biggest challenges with technology is the ease of use. As a teacher, it can feel like technology is one more thing to add to an already overflowing plate.  Who wants to run around trying to figure out how to log everyone into their accounts?  What if there aren’t enough devices?  These questions can dissuade, even the most seasoned educator, from implementing technology.

So what is a good option for a teacher who wants to collaborate beyond the four classroom walls, but doesn’t want the hassle of multiple accounts and devices? Is there a tool that you can use right away without having to spend hours learning how to use it?  Why yes, yes there is! By using a free tool called Skype you can have your students connect with other classrooms around the globe, you can ask professionals to speak about careers, or invite guest readers to read a book virtually.  Students can hear and see speakers they may not have had access to in the past due to distance or funding. Students can ask questions and can share ideas or how about connecting with another classroom virtually? Skype is surprisingly easy to use and best of all it’s free.

To connect on Skype for your lesson you will need to create a Skype account at www.skype.com and  a webcam on your computer or device. If you don’t have a built in web camera you can purchase them online for as little as $10.  That’s it, you are ready to Skype. Still feeling a bit hesitant? Click here for how to set up your account.

Looking for other classrooms to collaborate with? Check out Mystery Skype where students from two different locations attempt to identify where the other classroom is located based on given clues his isn’t just for geography –you could create a book club where students discuss books they are reading in the classroom, or for the younger students you could play guessing games where students use clues to identify a mystery object. Other classrooms have teamed up on a science experiment…you get the picture…the possibilities are endless!

There are classrooms everyday, everywhere looking for a Skype partners.  If you are using Twitter, follow the hashtag #mysteryskype to find classrooms looking to connect or you can access education.skype.com to find lessons and other educators interested in classroom partnerships.Want to bring an author into your classroom? Check out this website for a list of authors that will Skype with your classroom for free broken down by grade level.

As always, I would love to hear about your Skyping ideas or experiences.  Please feel free to leave a comment!

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