We’ve been using Skype for nearly a decade now to communicate with our friends and family all over the world by voice, video and instant message for free. As teachers, we’ve always contemplated the possibilities this technology could open up, but ladies and gentlemen, it appears that we’ve been living under a rock for some time now. (We owe a big thanks to our friend Richard Byrne from Free Technology 4 Teachers for turning us on to this).
Allow us to introduce Skype in the Classroom, a collaborative space where users can connect and collaborate with businesses, non-profit organizations, scholars and experts across the globe—even those at the top of Mount Everest! We’ll get to this in a minute.
Once you head over to the site, you can narrow your search by culture, geography, history, languages, math and science to name a few. Once you’ve found your niche, browse away. Here are a few opportunities that stuck out to us:
For English and Art Teachers
We’ve talked about digital storytelling and using comic-book generators to make writing less intimidating for our students, but what if you were to supplement these activities by Skyping with a real graphic novelist—for free?
Meet Stephen McCranie, a graphic novelist of an all-ages graphic novel series (published by Penguin) called Mal and Chad. If you sign up for one of his 25-minute Skype sessions, your students will watch McCranie sketch out his digital comic and learn “fundamental ideas about storytelling and drawing, and how both are essential to making great comics.”
At the end, McCranie runs a Q and A and takes a drawing request from the audience which he signs, turns into a PDF, and sends to your class!
For History and Science Teachers
Everyone should see Yellowstone National Park in their lifetime, but it’s unlikely that you’ve got enough fairy dust to make it happen for your class. Thanks to Beth, a park ranger at Yellowstone, your students can visit the world’s first national park through Skype.
During their session, your students will learn more about the wildlife, geology and cultural history the park preserves. Beth is open to “almost any type of program” you’d like to set up and will even play "interview a ranger" or "guess that park," a mystery Skype game.
Noteworthy opportunities for using Skype in the classroom
Want to physically climb Mount Everest? Neither do we, but we’d be more than happy to use Skype to join explorer Mark Wood on his Everest adventure.
In March 2013, Wood will be leading an expedition through the Nepalese side of the Himalayas in an attempt to summit Mount Everest and he’s looking for 10 schools from 10 different countries to watch him do it
If your class is selected, your students will not only get to watch the ascent, they’ll also learn about the problems the Nepalese people face because of climate change. In addition to this, students will hear a climate specialist talk about the shifting glaciers and how they impact the local people as well as the rest of the planet.
We’ve only scratched the surface here, so stop by Skype in the Classroom and explore the endless Skyping opportunities for your students and yourself!