Using Skype in Education (3 units)


For most of our species past, most people defined their communities as being the region or city in which they lived—or, if they had a more expanded view, they would place their sphere of domain in the state or nation to which they belonged.  Today those limits are behind us. We now live in an international, global community and economy.  It is a place in which we as a human race seek to connect with each other to pursue mutual aims and purposes which hopefully will ultimately result in a better improved world situation.  Thus, our communicative needs have changed overall. No longer is a mere phone call or local, or face-to-face meeting enough to meet business people’s and student’s needs.  New technologies are called for to meet newly defined needs in this new global era.  Expenses in terms of time, money, and effort need to be trimmed or reworked in new ways to make this global community a more workable, smooth enterprise. Skype is one of these technologies that can help in this arena, and it is one that teachers can learn to use to bring educational understanding and global connection to a broad variety of students the world over.

Skype logo.

What is Skype? According to the www.skype.com web-site, Skype enables users to “call, instant message, video call, and conference with one piece of software” (p. 1). Skype allows users to make free, face-to-face video calls anywhere in the world by using a web-cam and the Skype service. Skype users can also make audio calls to anyone else on Skype for free as well and also utilize their call forwarding and voicemail services; however, if a Skype user wishes to call someone else on a landline or cell phone there is a minimal charge of just pennies per minute in most cases. Group instant messaging is free as is conference calling when it is between Skype contacts. Skype can be downloaded for free from the Skype web-site and installed on a personal computer (click on this link to see Oprah’s video presentation of this exciting Skype technology http://www.oprah.com/ads/skype/skype_main.html).

This technology is very exciting news for education —and we explore the many ways that this technology can enrich teacher’s ability to enhance their teaching practice in our “Using Skype in Education” course here at Teacher’s Tech! In this course, teachers will engage in the exploration of “What does Skype mean for education?” In this course teachers will learn how to use Skype to tremendously expand their potentials for connecting their students to subject matter content in many fun, flexible ways. For example, as one Social Studies teacher commented on the www.murcha.wordpress.com web-site, “my students argue that videoconferencing with another class in another country is the best, most powerful experience for them. They beg for more and more” (p. 1). In another school, students use Skype to learn foreign languages much more effectively than they would in a traditional language classroom. They are able to do this by having a computer screen mediated, “face-to-face” simulated interaction via a Skype video call with a tutor who resides in the foreign country whose language the student is attempting to learn (click on this link to see a video on the Tonics' Language School http://skype.com/business/case-studies/). Then there is the account of Mr. Crosby, a fourth grade teacher, who used Skype in inclusion. One of his students was homebound with leukemia, so instead of having her miss class, he connected her to his classroom using Skype’s video call feature (to read more on this exciting use of Skype go to http://share.skype.com/sites/en/2007/04/inclusion_helping_a_classmate.html). 

In addition to these uses, teachers can use Skype to bring in guests and experts in their subject matter from all over the world via a video call to talk with their students in class.  Speech and Language Teachers can use Skype to deliver speech therapy services to hard to reach, more isolated regions and rural areas.  Science teachers can use Skype to allow their students’ to witness a lab demonstration at a major university or to invite a researcher to talk to students about their latest research developments. Skype can be used by language arts teachers to have their students’ talk with the authors of books that they are reading. Other teachers have used Skype to bring in a Peace Corp Volunteer to discuss the malaria problem in Africa (4th grade), to study various cultures the world over (7th grade), to explore various holiday celebrations the world over (2nd grade), to interview an expert on bats (2nd grade), to have students make presentations and to collaborate with other classrooms outside their own districts and/or countries (high school, etc.), to participate in professional development activities, trainings, and district meetings, and even to enable the teacher to teach students while the teacher was absent on maternity leave (see http://www.classroom20.com/forum/topics/skype-in-education for more!).  

All these exciting applications will be explored and expanded upon in depth in our “Using Skype in Education” course! The “Using Skype in Education Course” will show teachers how to use Skype in these and many other, exciting and innovative ways. The format of the course includes using Skype technology itself to bring in computer mediated, “face-to-face” experts as well as an on-line course component with access to video archives and “Blackboard” technology. The course consists of two meetings a week paced over a five week session. This course may be used to complete the Professional Development units required for various collegiate and professional programs. A Certificate of Completion will be issued at the end of the completion of this course.