“We’re going to use Skype?” “Yay!” “Can I talk?”
These are some of the comments from my students when we use Skype in our classroom. Engagement is never an issue when we use this tool!
But using Skype in a relevant way…that is another issue. If we are going to use technology, we need to use it well. We need to use it to learn.
Here are some of the best ways I have seen to use Skype in a classroom.
Work on Reading Fluency
Several times my class has prepared and read reader’s theatre scripts with classes that live far away. Sometimes each class has choral read various parts and sometimes parts were assigned to students in both classes.
Last year, we met via Skype with students who live 1000 miles away for 15 minutes two or three days per week for a kind of virtual reading buddies. The noteworthy aspect of this pairing was that students who would not read to someone in their own classroom eagerly read with a friend in another province.
Play math games
If your children are too young to understand the complexities of location (many of my students still don’t understand that they live in both a city AND a province) they can still play Mystery Number Skype. To play this game, students take turns asking questions to narrow down a set of numbers to the exact figure that the other class has chosen. The challenge of this game can vary widely depending on the age and skill level of your students.
If you’re working on measurement or geometry, make up your own game to practice those skills. It’s just so much more engaging when students can learn from and with another class.
Bring in Experts
There have been many occasions on which I have been at a loss to answer my students’ wonders or when I felt that the students would be better served by speaking to someone who was better versed in a topic than I am. Whether it has been a geologist, a nurse, older students or even youngsters the same age as my students who were experts about their own school, each “expert” has engaged, informed and solidified my students’ thinking.
Do something fun
I’m a pretty curriculum based teacher, but no matter how strict you are about sticking to your outcomes or standards, there needs to be time in every classroom for doing things just because they are fun. Whether it is stacking Oreos, acting out and guessing Halloween costumes, guessing what something is or just telling jokes these moments can be so much more fun when shared with another class.
Practice Map Skills
Mystery Skype has become very popular as classes around the world learn geography by playing a game that has them scouring maps and fiercely debating the question that would be most effective in guessing their virtual visitor’s location. Some teachers have organized their class with roles to guide the process. Anything that can have students excited about and engrossed in geography has my support.
How to Start
If you have access to a laptop or device with a microphone and camera, you can use Skype in your classroom. Just download the program or install the app. Skype in the Classroom is a great place to start looking for like-minded teachers who might want to Skype with you. (Yes, Skype is a verb in my classroom!) Just search through the thousands of teachers already registered at the site to find someone who has aims similar to your own.
Skype is not the only great tool for video conferencing. For teachers in some schools, Google Hangouts or FaceTime can be used in exactly the same way. It has been my experience though, that for versatility, access and ease of use Skype is the best tool.
Truthfully, there are far more than five ways to use Skype in your classroom, but this list should get you started. How will you connect your classroom?
Connected from the Start: Learning globally in your K-5 classroomJoin this self-paced online course
I wrote the book Connected from the Start to help teachers who want to connect their classroom with classes and people beyond the four walls of their school.
I wrote it for teachers who want to use technology in meaningful ways and who want to help students to learn online safety and etiquette by doing and not just by listening. I’ve been so pleased with the feedback from teachers who have read the book and have started to link their classrooms to the world beyond.
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Specific topics to be covered in the weekly content include:
Welcome & Why
For this lesson, we’ll look at why you would want to have a connected classroom and start thinking about doing it safely.
How can you use Skype to create a global learning environment while you work on curricular outcomes?
Blogging & Blogs as Digital Portfolios
In this lesson, we’ll look at classroom blogs and at student blogs and the power and potential they have.
Twitter? In the classroom? Let’s look at why and how to make it an incredible learning tool.
Other Possibilities for Connecting
We’ll look at other tools that can make your classroom a globally connected one.
Getting Started Connecting
So many options. Where do I start? In this lesson we’ll look at some practical ways to begin.
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