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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

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...

iviike4@hotmail.com

Tonya's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have heard about Skype recently, and so I was excited to see a blog about it. With the economic crunch my school district has been going through, it could be hard to take students "out" of the school to see the world (on a field trip). I was hoping that Skype would be a way to bring the world to the students via internet. It sounds like a great opportunity...one that I am going to look further into. Thanks for the great blog & comments from everyone.

Mr. Whan's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a grade 3 teacher in Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada. In my province in grade 3 we study Canada, India, Ukraine, Tunisia, and Peru. I am looking for teacher in any of the countries that we study that my class might be able to communicate with on SKYPE. If you are interested please email me (david.whan@nlsd.ab.ca) or SKYPE me (mr.whan)

I am also interested in finding a class tht we can correspond with via email or snail mail to teach my students letter wrting skills.

Thank you and I look forward to do some cross cultural learning with you and your students.

Jana's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hello Mike,
My name is Jana Binger and I teach 3rd grade in rural Rushville, NE. I am looking for email/skype contact with another classroom that could talk about life in a bigger city. We are a farming community without a stoplight. I like your idea and I am open to future thoughts as well. Most of my students have never seen heavy traffic, a skyscraper, or the ocean. I am looking to open there windows just a little bit.
Very Interested,
Jana

Angie Steed's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am just beginning to Skype and love it. I am interested in Skyping wiht a whole class using a webcam and microphone. I teach 5th grade Social Studies so we could discuss the differences between our cultures, regions,etc. Let me know if you are interested and ideas you may have.

Marty Sharp's picture

I'm an elementary reading teacher in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I'm looking to start a virtual book group via Skype for 4th and/or 5th grade students. If you're interested please contact me at sharma@whsd.net.

Toni Mania's picture

I just had my first skype capable Graduate class. My level of anxiety was non-existent because i knew my professor was a mouse click away the entire time. My teachers always tell me to email them, ad then i have to wait for a response, that leads to another question, that needs more waiting, and before you know it a simple assignment takes forever. My professor picked up skype, walked me through everything and waited until i was clear on my instructions before ending the conversation. It was like being in the room with her!

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

Skype just launched: "Skype in the Classroom," a free online directory for teachers who want to use Skype. Looks very exciting. Check it out: http://education.skype.com/about and please share how you plan to take advantage of this free resource.

jim forde's picture

Hi There!

Enjoyed the post. I was in New Delhi two weeks ago at an HP educational grant conference and Skyped every morning with my family.

It worked like a champ then also!

All the best...jim forde :-)

Joanna Huang's picture
Joanna Huang
Educator

With good timing, I did try Skype and Wikispaces tools with my G6 students. It's a great global collaborative project between both schools - an international school located at Hong Kong and a Taiwan local school. Both school students help their global partners learn Chinese or English as a foreign language. I am happy to share my experience. You may click this link for some information. Any feedback/suggestion is welcome. http://www.slideshare.net/joannashulinghuang/teaching-chinese-in-interna...

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