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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Use Skype with Students

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

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

Angela Gilchrist's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Any luck finding classes to Skype with? I am a high school Spanish teacher who would like to get my students Skyping with students in Spanish-speaking countries, particularly Central and South American (but any will do). Any suggestions/help?

Angela Gilchrist
Fitzgerald High School
23200 Ryan Road
Warren, MI 48091

586-757-7070 Ext. 1288

Jeremy's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Well, I agree, Skype is an excellent service when you are going to call to US or Canada. But the outgoing calls to eastern Europe and Asia regions are quite expensive. I am calling to my colleague in Washington but there is no difference of using Skype or home phone when I call to Ukraine.

MTC's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Interesting question. I am n ot in the classroom now, but interested in the possibilities.

Kathy Lindstrom's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Cost to Asia using Skype? This is interesting. I wonder why? I spend much time on Skype to my cousin in Thailand and China and it's FREE, doesn't cost a cent. After being introduced to Skype about two years ago, I immediately saw the possibilities of use in the classroom, and worked on some lesson plans that incorporated having my cousin in Thailand "teach" some of my classes. Skype is an awesome tool. Gmail now also has this free video chat service.

Sheila Boehning's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This year in my 8th grade language arts class we used Skype several times. We Skyped to New Zealand, China, Brazil, Belgium, and Portugal. I have lived overseas, so I wanted to "bring the world" to my classroom. Watching my students interact with students from around the world was exciting. Here are some possible ways to use Skype in a math class: the time difference fascinated my students -- possibly do something with time zones; possibly figure mileage (and air fare cost); possibly look at currency and compare McDonald's (or other common food chain) menus in both countries; do a grocery list or cost to go to movies and so on; figure a budget for living in that country compared to what it would cost in America (housing, cars, education and so on); maybe figure out how many soccer fans can fill that country's stadium compared to how many football fans(since we do not have quite the soccer mania here!) fill a local stadium; maybe do a Wii tournament and focus on math skills (this can be done via the Internet); just do math problems together -- we had a great time just interacting with students from an international school. These are just some ideas. Please share how you end up using Skype to enhance math skills. It would be great to hear how it goes with your students and to glean more ideas. Skype fit easily into language arts standards. My students thoroughly enjoyed it and learned much about other cultures and the language arts.

Sheila Boehning's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This year in my 8th grade language arts class we used Skype several times. We Skyped to New Zealand, China, Brazil, Belgium, and Portugal. I have lived overseas, so I wanted to "bring the world" to my classroom. Watching my students interact with students from around the world was exciting. Here are some possible ways to use Skype in a math class: the time difference fascinated my students -- possibly do something with time zones; possibly figure mileage (and air fare cost); possibly look at currency and compare McDonald's (or other common food chain) menus in both countries; do a grocery list or cost to go to movies and so on; figure a budget for living in that country compared to what it would cost in America (housing, cars, education and so on); maybe figure out how many soccer fans can fill that country's stadium compared to how many football fans(since we do not have quite the soccer mania here!) fill a local stadium; maybe do a Wii tournament and focus on math skills (this can be done via the Internet); just do math problems together -- we had a great time just interacting with students from an international school. These are just some ideas. Please share how you end up using Skype to enhance math skills. It would be great to hear how it goes with your students and to glean more ideas. Skype fit easily into language arts standards. My students thoroughly enjoyed it and learned much about other cultures and the language arts.

Denise Faller's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Your idea about using Skype makes it possible to bring subject specialists into a rural classroom or university lecturer room. It is so obvious but the idea just did not occur to me.

I'm from South Africa and I was recently contacted by an excellent headmaster from a semi-rural school who asked for help in using e-learning in his school. He also is considering using it to help with the unemployed community surrounding the school in a literacy drive.

I was reluctant to commit to help because I have found that the effectiveness of the e-learning experience can be very dependant on the teacher/lecturer who introduces it, especially with learners in a rural environment.

Skype is an obvious answer to guiding learners through our programs and sharing expertise by communicating over a distance. Thanks for the great idea!

ChatterBox's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Lots of great ideas! I'm trying to get started with Skype and found a nice set of training - www.atomiclearning.com/skype.

They're not all free, but enough to get you started

Jessica Schwab's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think Skype is an amazing tool. I have been using Skype in my classroom for three years. I traveled to London to visit schools through a Fulbright scholarship and was able to set up Skype contacts. Due to the time difference, my students talk to students in London via Skype during advisory (homeroom). We use a webcam, Skype, a computer microphone, and one computer. It is so eye-opening for the students both in my classroom and in England. The students love it. I wish I utilize Skype more often with other schools around the country and around the world. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to communicate with other schools via Skype?

Thanks!

Jessica Schwab's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I posted earlier. I am interested in any international connections for my students to talk via Skype. We currently talk to a school in England. I would like to talk to other places we study in sixth grade social studies.

Thanks!

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