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Use Skype with Students

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
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I am traveling through India right now and doing workshops in private schools on technology-rich project learning. India has proven to be simply an amazing experience, and I will be sending along some other posts about what I am seeing here, but I thought I would start on the communication front.

During my time in China last September, my cell phone, an LG 8300 from a major American cell service, behaved like a champ. (Read my post about that trip.) But on this trip, I am finding it less than helpful. It worked fine in the Delhi airport, and here, on the outskirts of Bangalore, I am told I have a good signal, but . . . nothing. And technology is what I do for work!

Credit: Jim Moulton

So I have been using Skype to stay connected with the folks back home as well as to connect with the people I'm working with in India. Though my cell phone's functionality has been terrible, Skype has been nearly flawless. I have called Oregon, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, and Chandigarh, India. True, when the wireless connection gets a little funky, I drop a call or two. But overall, Skype has been great.

If you are a Skype user already, none of this will surprise you. But if you aren't, I think you'll be glad to learn about it. Skype is free software that enables users to make telephone calls via the Internet. It is free when making calls to other users of the service, and calls to toll-free numbers are also free. You can make calls to other land lines and mobile phones, but for a fee. Skype also offers instant messaging, the ability to transfer files, and videoconferencing.

Yup, that's right -- voice calls to any Internet-connected computer are free. Videoconferencing to other Internet-connected computers is also free. And, as I have become oh so aware of on this trip, you can make calls to any land line in the world for a very small fee.

My cell phone carrier had told me it would charge me $2.99 per minute for calls made while in India. "OK," I thought, "I'm going to be gone for more than three weeks, so it will be worth it to stay in touch with home." But I have been talking a lot with friends and family for the last few days -- once I gave up on the cell phone -- and I've used up about $6 of Skype credit in my account. And that is for the calls to land lines. I've also had several other video chats that have been free.

So, what might you and your students do with Skype? I have heard of cases in which an ill student was able to stay connected to her teacher and classmates via Skype, returning to school caught up, not behind. In January 2009, the School Library Journal published this article, which suggested using Skype to allow authors to virtually visit your classroom. And, being a librarian, the writer also included a nice task list to help you get started with Skype. I have to believe this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Because of its profoundly simple power to connect people to people in a variety of ways at an extremely low cost, I know many other great things have to be happening with Skype as well.

To find other innovative uses for Skype in schools, do a search for the terms Skype and education. I must admit, I am surprised that there has yet to arise a one-stop shop for Skype in education, but perhaps I've missed it. I did find this great idea, though -- a Skype phonebook for educators interested in connecting with other educators to possibly collaborate.

So don't think technology -- think people. Who would you like your kids to connect to? And, as always, please share your energy and your ideas!

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

Comments (50)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

patton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am new to the whole tech bit but last year we used Skype to contact and interview experts in the field. Students came up with questions which were pre-selected and then took turns asking. Follow-up questions were checked with me before asking. Great experiences for all involved!

Amanda Pierce's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have seen Skype used by television stations during news broadcasts and commented on the lack of delay time and the amazing quality. I am looking for ways for my students (in a small rural school district) to make connections to the "outside world". This seems like a great idea. It would be interesting to see the costs involved, but definitely worth exploring.

Chris Clark's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I love Skype! I use it at home all the time! My question is whether anyone has had problems getting it through the filters at their school? I would love to be able to use it for guest speakers but wasn't sure whether my district would let me download it and use it at school. Our filters our pretty strict. I haven't tried it yet but I was just wondering what anyone else's experience was!


Lindsay 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am not very familiar with Skype. I have attempted to set it up on my personal computer, but I do not have any others I know to connect with to see if it works. I love the idea of using Skype in the classroom. My question is, does your school district's internet allow it? I know that many things are blocked from the server such as YouTube and Google images, and I just wonder if Skype would be blocked as well. I love the idea of using Skype to have authors virtually visit the classroom. Do you think this could be used to talk from classroom to classroom as well? It would be like having a pen pal that could share with you first hand about their culture. Of course you would have to make sure they can speak your language, but I think this would be a great tool to begin using in the classroom in addition to blogs.
Has anyone else used Skype in the classroom?

Lindsay 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

That sounds like a great activity! What grade do you teach and what experts did you interview? Did you let the students choose who they wanted to interview or did you already have a preset list?

Lorna's picture
Anonymous (not verified)


I use Skype to keep in touch with family and friends in Jamaica, Turks and Caicos and it is wonderful. I never thought about using for students to stay connected with class. That is really a great idea and I will definitely look at those links in your article. Enjoy India.

Michael 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I'm a huge Skype fan. I've used it with siblings studying abroad, friends in the same house two rooms down, but best of all I've seen a broadcast birth in a hospital thousands of miles away. It's a great program and I'm glad to see that other people have had just as much success as me. The rates are also incredible if you decide to pay for phone-pc connection. My dad is an airline pilot and he uses it often if his cell phone is out of service. As for the Skype Phonebook for educators, thats an amazing idea and I'll be looking into that! Thanks for the post and resources.


Aubrey's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I just recently learned how Skype works in a school technology class. I have found it to be another amazing way of communicating with others. When we first began learning it we communicated and talked with teachers from other schools concerning standards and new programs the district was requiring. We then tried to take it into the classrooms. One of the other teachers and I tried using it as a way to have book talks with other 4th grade students through out the building. Of course it was a crazy and problematic to start, but the we quickly learned that the students were more open and honest with their comments when using this program. It was awesome. Has anyone else used Skype in their schools or classroom?

Mike's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am looking for teachers to Skype with my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students. I do not have any projects planned at the moment, but I would like to have my students start at introducing themselves and then talking about what life is like in the town the live in. If using Skype goes well I would be more then happy to collaborate on projects for the future. Please contact me if you are interested in this...

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