In this section we will be reflecting on the following topics:
- What Skype is and why we think it's great!
- How other teachers are using Skype in the classroom
- How to use Skype safely in your classroom.
- Where to get more ideas for using Skype in the classroom.
Skype is a surprisingly easy communication medium to master and, for the most part safer than other modes of communication such as phones and email. You can text, telephone, use live video if you have a camera, send files and make group calls. The possibilities are endless and teachers are constantly finding new ways to develop learners’ skills and understanding. Join the discussion and get started
In this activity, the teacher opens her classroom to the world whilst remaining confident that she is in complete control of the teaching, learning and students' safety.
First you need to create a Skype account
– it’s free and it’s easy. You will need to download the software but the step-by-step guide is fool-proof. Log into your account and click on Add Contact. You will be asked to provide the email address of the person you’d like to add. It is a good idea to start your list of contacts by adding classes in the same school, colleagues and classes in other schools and suitably vetted people in the community e.g. the local children’s librarian. Pupils do NOT need their own accounts.
The people you’ve added will receive an email asking them to accept you as a contact, which they can either accept or decline. In most cases you will have already spoken to them, checked that they are happy to be your contact and, importantly, that they have a Skype account!
When your contacts have accepted and added to your list, click on ‘Call phone’ next to the chosen contact. You will need to pre-arrange with your contact a set time and date for the call to take place. We used the interactive whiteboard and a lap top computer with a built in webcam facing the students so that both classes could see and hear each other.
In this lesson, the teacher wanted pupils to develop their understanding of the geographical differences between the inland town where their school was located and a school in a seaside town. The teacher in the contact school was an old friend of hers and together they planned a series of Skype interviews to develop learners’ understanding of contrasting environments.
Learners had already drafted questions they wanted to ask and each class took turns in asking questions. During the interview, learners kept notes of the responses.
Over the coming weeks, other calls were made in order for learners to delve deeper and inquire further as more questions and queries arose. To end the unit of work, each class presented their Contrasting Localities Project to the other via Skype.
These are quick, concise ideas only. Because of the nature of Skype, they all involve linking with other schools or individuals so the guidelines in the comprehensive lesson above apply.
- Practice a foreign Language
- Compare weather patterns nationally and globally
- Set up international quizzes or spelling bees
- Have an inter-school debate
- "Where are we?": link with a ‘mystery’ school, learners have to discover their location through deducing a series of clues or riddles
- Skype teacher/parent meetings… why not?
- Interview artists, authors, athletes, and people in the community who have 10 minutes to spare but live too far away to visit the class. Most countries have national registers of vetted people who are available to work with children. In Wales Yr Academi
is a great place to start.
Resources / Hints & Tips
Having set up the account, you will effectively become ‘gatekeeper' to your Skype account. You get choose who is added to your contacts and you will have control over every call that is made or received. It isn’t possible to receive unsolicited calls and when you are logged out of Skype no one can call you.
If you are happy to have only one contact in your list and that is someone you’ve known for 30 years, is also a teacher, and happens to be teaching in the classroom next door, that’s fine. It’s a start!
Make a test call first, mainly to check your internet connection. If the video call is constantly interrupted or disconnected, you may wish to opt for an ‘audio only’ or SMS interview.
Skype comes under that category of software called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). There are others you could use instead such as PhonePower, Lingo, Vonage...
One problem might be that your server blocks access to Skype so ask your server host to ‘unblock the port’ that Skype uses. Skype is one of those applications that works through the internet but is not on the world wide web.
To see how the rest of the world is using Skype in the classroom click here
43,000 teachers can’t be wrong!