Skype in the Classroom: Connecting Teachers and Students to the World
Brian D. Hadfield, Middle School Teacher, Chippewa Valley Public Schools, Michigan
Technology has the ability to transform classrooms into global learning environments, allowing children to broaden their horizons and their worldview. It also provides educators with new outlets for creativity and collaboration.
One of the latest technological developments comes courtesy of Skype, with its Skype in the Classroom venture. This free feature is designed to provide an international community that connects students and teachers in ways that allow them to share ideas, aptitudes, endeavors and more without having to leave the classroom.
To get started, teachers simply need to create a profile that includes their location, interests and specialties. Upon completion of their profile, they can create projects and browse existing ones that other teachers have initiated. There are hundreds of active projects and a filter allows teachers to easily find topics suited to their needs. Whether they’re looking to speak with someone living in a volcano zone, discuss life cycles with a chicken farmer or simply chat with a native French speaker, it’s possible through Skype in the Classroom.
As of May 2012, more than 28,000 teachers had signed up for Skype in the Classroom, which offered nearly 1,900 projects, including:
- Conversational English for Intermediate Speakers:Formed by a group of teachers willing to help students in other countries with their English, this project had attracted classrooms from the Russian Federation, El Salvador, Egypt and Brazil within just a month. Connecting students with native speakers can greatly improve comprehension of both language and culture.
- Tolerance and Discrimination around the World:This project was initiated by students in Wisconsin and within five days a teacher in the United Kingdom had partnered with them for discussions with his classroom. The project allows students to see that bullying and other problems, inside and outside the classroom, are not just inherent to their school or country but are issues everywhere. Students and teachers can also discuss potential solutions and ways to encourage tolerance and diversity with their international partners.
- Lunch with a Scientist:This idea came from a fifth-grade teacher looking to connect with a scientist who was willing to discuss career options; many of the teacher’s students were interested in pursuing a career in science. Within two months, another teacher had connected and secured a guest speaker from Canada to talk with the children. Although students can certainly gain insight from textbooks and Internet searches, this project allowed them to link up with a scientist for a live Q&A session, providing information from a professional in the field.
In addition to the numerous projects, Skype in the Classroom also houses more than 600 resources – a library of articles, links, videos and more than can assist in classroom studies.
With such an abundance of resources and projects, this interactive feature from Skype can benefit teachers and students on a global scale, bridging regional and cultural differences, as well as language barriers.