Skype, the free, ubiquitous VOIP downloadable, offers some unique opportunities for tech-savvy teachers to get their students learning in exciting new ways. It might prove a buggy affair depending on the version, but all the same the service still makes for a phenomenal classroom tool. Read on to find out how you can put this cool tool to work in your classroom.
- Meet with other classrooms:
One of the most common projects educators utilize Skype for is setting up exchanges with classrooms around the world, usually for cultural exchange purposes or working together on a common assignment. The program’s official site provides some great opportunities to meet up with like-minded teachers and students sharing the same goals.
- Practice a foreign language:
Connect with individual learners or classrooms hailing from a different native tongue can use a Skype collaboration to sharpen grammar and pronunciation skills through conversation.
- Peace One Day:
Far beyond classroom collaborations, the Peace One Day initiative teamed up with Skype itself and educators across the globe to teach kids about the importance of ending violence, war, and other social ills.
- Around the World with 80 Schools:
This challenge asks participating schools to hook up with 80 worldwide and report back what all they’ve learned about other cultures and languages.
- Talk about the weather:
One popular Skype project sees participants from different regions make note of the weather patterns for a specified period of time, with students comparing and contrasting the results.
- Collaborative poetry:
In this assignment, connected classrooms pen poetic pieces together and share them via video conferencing.
- Practice interviews:
The education system frequently receives criticism for its failure to prepare students for the real world, but using Skype to help them run through mock-up interviews with each other, teachers, counselors, or professionals will help grant them an advantage.
Merge the educational power of gaming with the connectivity of Skype for interactive (maybe even international!) role-playing and other competitive delights that educate and engage in equal measure.
- Hold a contest:
Challenge other classrooms to a competition circling around any subject or skill imaginable, and work out a suitable prize ahead of time.
- Hold a debate:
Similarly, Skype can also be used as a great forum for hosting formal and informal debates to help students with their critical thinking and research skills.
- Make beautiful music together:
Build a band comprised of musicians worldwide, who play and practice together over video — maybe even hold digital performances, too!
- Who are the people in your neighborhood?:
All the press about classrooms meeting with one another tend to veer towards the international, but some schools like to stay local. These two Tampa Bay-area kindergartens met regularly via Skype, sharing their current assignments with new friends only 10 miles away.
- Highlight time differences:
But there is something to be said about global exchanges, too, as it provides some insight into the differences between time zones — great for geography classes!
- Combine with augmented reality:
Both at home and in school, Skype provides a communication tool for collaborative augmented reality projects using the PSP and other devices.
- Mystery call:
Link up to a classroom in another region and have them offer up hints as to their true location, challenging students to guess where in the world their new friends live.
- Each student works a specific job during calls:
Divvy up responsibilities during Skype calls so every student feels engaged with the conversation, not just passive participants watching talks pan out. Assign bloggers, recorders, mappers, and any other tasks relevant to the meeting and project.
- Play Battleship:
The classic board game Battleship offers up lessons in basic X and Y axes; plus it’s also a lot of fun. Compete against other classrooms for an educational good time.
- Parent-teacher conferences:
Save gas, time, and energy by holding meetings with moms and dads via video chat instead of the usual arrangement.
- Meet with librarians:
Teachers and students alike who need some assistance with research or ask some questions about a specific book might want to consider hooking up a Skype link with the school library.
- Meet with advisors:
Similarly, the VOIP program also connects college kids with their advisors whenever they need to ask questions about degree plans or scheduling classes for next semester.
- Record a podcast:
Download or purchase an add-on that allows for recording audio via Skype and use it in conjunction with GarageBand (or similar program) when looking to set up an educational podcast for or with students.
- Record video:
Numerous plugins allow Skype users to record video of their chats, lectures, and presentations for later use, and students who miss class might very much appreciate having what they missed available for viewing.
- Provide tutoring and office hours:
If students need some supplementary help with their assignments — or simply something they can’t get past in the lessons — videoconferencing allows their teachers to offer up tutoring and opportunities for extra help. Special education classrooms might find this strategy particularly valuable.
- Teach digital literacy:
Because social media (comparatively) recently started creeping into most facets of daily life, it’s exceptionally important to illustrate online safety to the Digital Age kiddos. Skype requires the same sort of care and attention as Facebook and Twitter, and serves as a useful lesson in keeping one’s identity protected.
- Make Skype the classroom:
The growth in online classes means Skype itself works as a platform to conduct lessons, share presentations, provide tutoring and support, and more.
- Reduce absences:
Set up Skype streams to help students from falling too far behind in the event of a sickness, suspension, caretaking or similar scenario that causes them to leave the classroom for an extended period of time.
- Presentation tool:
Rather than sending students off on a virtual field trip, let them present their research and findings to institutions or eager parents wanting to know what their kids are learning about right now.
- Meet special education needs:
Skype allows the special education classroom to incorporate students of all ages and abilities into the conversation, and it works equally well as both a remote and a local tool.
- Study groups:
Instead of staking out precious library or coffee shop space, holding study groups via Skype provides a cheaper, more time-manageable alternative.
- Meet exchange students early:
Before shipping off to live with a host family or bringing in an exchange student, arrange meetings ahead of time and get to know one another’s unique needs, wants, and expectations.
- Art crits:
Schedule time with professional artists and receive thorough crits about how to improve a piece. Because Skype allows for screen sharing, anyone working in digital media will appreciate the convenience!
Rather than a lecture, try hosting a Skype interview with professionals and – if the money’s right — game-changes happy to answer student questions.
- Tour a museum:
Many distinguished museums around the world, such as the York Archaeological Trust, digitally open up their collections so students browse and learn no matter where their classroom may sit.
- Guest lecturers:
Many plugged-in professionals these days will gladly offer up special lectures and lessons to classrooms via Skype, and sometimes charge a much lower fee than if they were to travel!
- Simulcast performances:
Inevitably, some students’ parents, grandparents, and other loved ones can’t attend a play, concert, or other performance. Streaming it over Skype gives them an opportunity to tune in and show some support.
- Book club:
Whether part of a classroom project or organized as an extracurricular, book clubs meeting over the ubiquitous video conferencing tool make for a great project.
- Music lessons:
Thanks to Skype, tech-loving music teachers now reach a much broader audience of eager pupils willing to perfect their skills on almost any instrument imaginable.
- Professional development:
Skype benefits more than just students, as educators themselves can use it to plug in and keep their career skills sharpened and broadened.
- Attend or throw a poetry reading:
Many poets hold readings via Skype, but some educators might want to take things a step further and organize their own.
A perfect idea for plugged-in libraries and pre-K and kindergarten classrooms: offer remote storytime for kids around the world or ones stuck at home sick.
- Participate in town hall meetings:
Search for town hall meetings the world over and see which ones allow civic-minded classrooms and students to plug in and participate via Skype and other VOIP-enablers.
And here’s the tools to help you do it!
- Skype in the Classroom:
Run by the video chat client itself, this social network allows teachers and students alike to find collaborative projects meeting their educational goals.
- ePals Global Community:
Any and all VOIP-enabled classrooms seeking others for shared assignments or a quick meeting might want to turn toward this incredibly popular social media site to discover like-minded students and teachers.
This virtual whiteboard makes online presentations a breeze and works especially well during collaborative classroom sessions or with any special guests who pop online.
- Skype Office Toolbar:
Skype-savvy educators use this plugin to make sharing Microsoft Office files that much quicker and easier.
- Google suite:
Collaborative classrooms often take advantage of Google Docs, Maps, and Translate for various projects as easy, free resources to keep collaborations organized and understood.
Add on Skyremote for desktop sharing and the ability to control other computers remotely — a great tool in the collaborative classroom!
Make use of this video recorder to tape digital lectures, field trips, special events, streams, simulcasts, and more for later viewing by students, parents, and other teachers who might benefit from the information at hand.
- Hot Recorder:
When it comes to whipping together podcasts or other audio, Hot Recorder is considered one of the best companion programs to Skype.
Wheel in the giant TV and attach a Skype-ready telyHD camera for a much bigger viewing screen, which students in larger classrooms will appreciate!