I have recently had wonderful correspondence with a reader of the MangoMon blog that lives in California. He is an active parent in his child’s education who wanted to know more about how he could get his son’s teachers and school using Skype in the classroom. This interest began last year when he was able to arrange a guest speaker to speak to his son’s class via a webcam and Skype. This year, he wanted to expand this idea to have more teachers, possibly beyond his son’s school, to use Skype in the classroom to ‘share’ interview experiences with students who may be so busy that they cannot fly to visit schools individually, but could ‘visit’ many schools at one time virtually. A school might be able to host a famous author, astronaut, scientist, musician, or artist via Skype. This type of experience is great for schools because the cost of implementation is very low comparative to bringing in a guest speaker or having students leave the school grounds for a field trip.
I have actually been involved in setting up or participating in online face-to-face conversations in several different venues. One of those was a science museum where they would connect with classrooms and camps to conduct virtual field trips where students would see and learn about the endangered animals they had at the museum. Another experience I had was through a virtual video conference with several high schools and a college. The college provided the technology equipment to the high schools, which was then used for all of the schools to connect with one another about various learning topics or to watch professors lecture on specific topics. However, I have not actually “Skyped” or had any virtual guest speakers in my classroom. However, it is a great idea!
This spurred me to think about some of the roadblocks that I would have to overcome, or other teachers would have to overcome in the classroom, to make this dream a reality. I already have a webcam and a high-speed Internet access, so this will not be a problem. I would need the school to install Skype in my classroom, which shouldn’t be too difficult since it is a free program with limited, if any, costs associated with using this in the classroom. I would need to find a good learning connection for my classroom, along with learning objectives, and then pair that with a speaker or organization. I would obtain the support of the administration and send home parent ‘field trip forms’ for the event. This would indicate that it was a special event and alert parents to the importance of the activity. Teaching middle school, I would also have to find a way to gather the students together at one time, or to have one group actively involved, record it, and then play it back to the other classes. There will also need to be a standards-based connection the interview or virtual trip. An outline of what will be presented and a worksheet or note taking sheet for the students would help to make the learning outcome connection. This seems like a lot of preparation, but it is all very achievable – with a possible great and memorable learning event as the end product.
Through my research online, I have realized that many classrooms are using Skype in their classroom. They have shared their experiences online and many organizations and speakers offer ‘virtual’ interviews or field trips. Below are some of the resources I’ve read and found helpful in my quest to incorporate Skype in my classroom:
- 50 Awesome Ways to Incorporate Skype in the Classroom
- Using Skype in the Classroom
- Skype: Some thoughts and questions about its use as a teaching tool (directed for special education)
- YouTube video showing teachers how to use Skype in the classroom
- Skype for Dummies (Google Books online edition)
This would be a great extension for many classrooms to make the lessons they learn in school come alive, especially for special education students. For special education students, this is a great opportunity for them to be engaged in learning through ‘video.’ It provides a means for students to watch the video live, and then after the experience, the teacher can replay sections of the video to ensure student comprehension or review material. Incorporating this cool technology that the students have not used before also adds to the excitement and interest of the lesson.
There are many ways to incorporate Skype and virtual interviews and field trips into your classrooms – and now my goal is that by the end of this school year, my students will experience a virtual field trip or interview integrating webcams and Skype into my classroom. Definitely, come back and look for posts this winter and spring for my experiences on incorporating Skype in my classroom! If you have any tips or tricks, please comment below!
Article By Laura Ketcham
Picture By tjmwatson