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Using Skype for classroom and student interaction

Chris Francis French, Business, and Computer Studies teacher in London Canada

Here are my questions:

1. Have you connected your second language class with a class of native speakers of that language?

2. If you made a connection (question 1), then did you use Skype? Or what methods of communication did the students use with the students in the other class?

3. How did you connect with the other teacher(s)? Are there ways for teachers to connect that could handle large volumes of teachers?

4. Will Skype use by second language classes quickly ramp up in popularity? What are the obstacles to that happening?

Following is more info about my questions.

Second language learners would benefit greatly from more opportunities to speak to native speakers, particularly if the native speakers are the same age as the second language learners.

Skype allows these opportunities. However, it isn't easy for second language teachers to make the necessary connections. There are a couple of websites, but they don't have many teachers on them, so it's quite likely your request will get no responses. Here are the two main websites I am aware of:
http://education.skype.com/
http://www.epals.com/

I would like to make it easier for second language teachers to connect their classes with native speakers. For example, an anglophone class learning French could connect with a francophone class learning English. The francophone class would help the anglophone class improve their French and the anglophone class would help the francophone class improve their English.

The more we can get our students speaking, the faster they will learn and the more comfortable they will be. Also, what could be more exciting than communicating with students their own age in another country?

The Quadblogging.net site has connected over 400 classes in the past couple of months. I'd like to see a similar site for second language teachers that attracts large numbers of teachers and makes it easy for them to connect.

The interactions might start with a classroom to classroom Skype. It might continue with groups of two or three students Skyping with small groups from the other class. It could include writing letters, working on projects together, etc.

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Co-Director East Bay WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

@Chris

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Hi Chris! Merci beaucoup pour toutes ces bons commentaires!

I appreciate your post very much. Lots of great points to share, and super suggestions to get us connected abroad. Keep the ideas flowing! I will try to answer your questions below, and ask our colleagues to do so as well. Let's have a good chat about this everyone.

1. Have you connected your second language class with a class of native speakers of that language?
- I have done this, but as I have a cousine in France, I have set up the class connections with my cousine's son and his class. I did sign up for ePals, and love what they have to offer, but I have not yet set up an exchange that way. Who has some experiences to share about ePals with us?

2. If you made a connection (question 1), then did you use Skype? Or what methods of communication did the students use with the students in the other class?
- We exchanged emails, mostly, and sent a package of odds and ends of cultural interest to each others' classes. We did not use Skype due to the time difference of 9 hours between my town Napa, and Paris. However, I am keen to try it sometime with the students. I Skype with my cousine, and my son in Philadelphia as well - love Skype! I would like to set up a collaboration by Skype with a class in Quebec which is only 3 hours difference. Who has tried Skype with your class?

3. How did you connect with the other teacher(s)? Are there ways for teachers to connect that could handle large volumes of teachers?
- My exchange was informal as I mentioned, although one year I had an exchange with a Peace Corps worker in Senegal. The PC has opportunities like this. Check their website for details. I have also had contact with a teacher in Cote d'Ivoire through Edmodo. There is a French Teachers' group on Edmodo as well. I also use Twitter extensively and have a large group of French teachers with whom I exchange ideas almost daily on Twitter. As a member of the #langchat team in Twitter, I help moderate a chat weekly on Thursdays at 5pm Pacific time, and have had on-going collaboration with WL teachers there. Recently, I engaged in a Critical Friends protocol about a PBL project we each developed using Voice Thread - very cool tool. There are lots of ways to meet other WL teachers. What ways do others use to do this?

4. Will Skype use by second language classes quickly ramp up in popularity? What are the obstacles to that happening?
- I think Skype offers a great opportunity for collaboration, and I think that it will become more popular as Skype gets the word out it is offering support for this type of exchange. The biggest obstacle for me is the time zone issue. The Francophone regions fo the world are a bit far away for us in California, but not impossible. The key thing is having a super connection with a motivated colleague in the target language country! What do others think about this question?

This is a very current and interesting discussion, Chris. Thanks for coming to Edutopia and for this post. Let's help Chris out, everyone! Weigh in and let us know your thoughts on the questions he asks! Copy/paste the questions into your reply as I have so we can follow your thoughts in response to the prompts. I am looking forward to your replies!

Best to all,
Don

Founder, Digital Children's Content Provider

Hi, I worked for a

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Hi,
I worked for a non-profit that used Skype to improve Christian-Muslim relations in my home country the Philippines. The Christians live in Manila and the Muslims live in another island called Mindanao. They used Skype to create an intercultural dialogue. You can know more about it at http://peacetech.net

Here are my questions:

1. Have you connected your second language class with a class of native speakers of that language? We used English as it known by all in the Philippines. The local dialects weren't used as much.

2. If you made a connection (question 1), then did you use Skype? Or what methods of communication did the students use with the students in the other class? Yes, we maximized Skype as a visual medium. So, it was to use songs, skits, and camera tricks to engage students.

3. How did you connect with the other teacher(s)? Are there ways for teachers to connect that could handle large volumes of teachers?
We had to get an endorsement from the Department of Education.
4. Will Skype use by second language classes quickly ramp up in popularity? What are the obstacles to that happening? Yes, it can according to your objective for the class. You also need other programs to keep the dialogue happening such as Facebook groups to maintain it.

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