How Teachers are Using Skype in the Classroom
Lauren M. Bronson, Elementary School Teacher, Hillsborough County, Florida
Imagine connecting with other classrooms across the globe without ever leaving the confines of the school campus – no permission forms, no significant parental or school cost and none of the hassles that can often accompany field trips.
Skype has created an educational component called Skype in the Classroom that allows teachers to connect with other educators around the world in a virtual environment. With more than 28,000 educators participating as of May 2012, this free service offers a myriad of collaborative projects and cultural connections. Think of it as a pen pals program for the 21st century.
Project: Examining Cultural Differences
Skype in the Classroom features a forum in which teachers can post project ideas for others to join as participants. In one instance, a high school teacher in Norway posted a project titled “Reflect on how Cultural Differences and Dissimilar Value Systems can Affect Communication,” which gave students the opportunity to deal first-hand with communication barriers among different nationalities.
Once students gain a firm grasp of the notion that teens in other nations are much like themselves, it can open up a new understanding and appreciation for those of different backgrounds.
Project: Weather Comparisons across the Globe
In one project, a first-grade teacher in Chicago sought to connect with other classes to compare and contrast weather conditions each day for two weeks. The students were able to learn about weather conditions in different countries and about weather-related precautions other students had to take. Students who were dealing with heavy snow in Chicago could communicate via Skype with youngsters in Costa Rica who were simultaneously experiencing heavy rains and warm temperatures.
Project: Learning the Language
Created by a teacher in Argentina, “Partnership Project – English and Spanish” received support from U.S. educators stretching from New York to Wisconsin who wanted to give their students the chance to practice a foreign language. What better way to practice proper pronunciation than with native speakers of similar age?
Skype in the Classroom also allows teachers to connect with other educators to discuss curriculum, share ideas or seek advice. In addition, many teachers post requests for guest speakers relevant to their subject. A high school teacher in the United States requested a guest speaker who could share knowledge relating to the film industry for an advanced film class. In another posting, a teacher of autistic children asked other educators to share their favorite classic books during story time.
With about 1,900 projects available for students ages 3 to 18, teachers are likely to find resources worth tapping into through Skype in the Classroom, whether it relates to math, physical education, the arts, language, reading, writing, science, social studies or technology. There’s also the option to create a project from scratch and invite others to join.
With research showing that hands-on activities can boost learning, teachers who incorporate technology such as Skype in the Classroom into their lessons may be primed to see improved performance among their students.