I had heard about teachers using Skype in their classroom to connect with other teachers and classes during the last few years. It had always interested me but was something that was put in the “bookmarked” list of things to get to over the holidays. And then when holidays arrived it got pushed back in favour of other holiday events and tasks.
But this term I decided to grab the camera and just do it – so one evening sitting on the couch (where all teachers do their evening work right?) I clicked onto Skype in the Classroom.
Wow. From the moment I logged in using my Skype ID (that I have had for the last decade) I was jazzed. It gave me energy. Seeing all that was possible I kinda went into a “favouriting” and “connecting” craze – making bookmarks and sending out emails to lesson creators asking to connect. I was like a kid in a candy store – I wanted more!
The next day after a full day of teaching my little friends their curriculum I was slightly panicked. I had to ask myself “where can I fit something like Skype into my lessons apart from what we are already doing?” I became deflated and began to fall back into my do-it-later mode of thinking. But I stopped myself. How? I realised it was something I wanted to do. I am very passionate about students developing global understandings through ICT and believe they should be made aware of their digital footprint and how to become a responsible digital citizen. Just because I was teaching younger students this year was no reason to not continue with my beliefs.
So I went back to Skype in the Classroom and began looking at the website from a ‘beginners’ point of view. What did I need to know to start? Where could I find information on how to go about implementing this as part of my classroom practice? This is when I found the Skype Guides, which is probably one of the best how-to helps I have seen in a while (along with the Edublogs Blogging Challenges).
Scrolling through the list, I came across teachers from all over the world who had been using Skype in their classrooms successfully and who were offering their own time to mentor teachers and answer questions about doing just that. Suddenly I had found what I was looking for – people who could tell me how they had done it and help me do the same.
Connecting to these guides has been fantastic! Obviously one of the problems in connecting globally is time zone differences. The guides post dates and times for sessions they are offering so they can reach as many people as possible through group calls. However when one of the guides I made my first connection with realised I was in Australia, she was wonderfully flexible in making a time that suited both her in America and me. Another guide, who was from Victoria like me, even set up a separate time and date to call so it fit into our schedules coming to the end of term.
What Skype guides have confirmed for me is the wonderful collegiate nature of our teaching profession – around the world. These guides have been generous in ideas, time and support, which has made the prospect of moving forward with using Skype seem much easier to manage! Skype Education has also been wonderful – I used Twitter to send them a question using their #SkypeAtoZ chat feed and received an answer back very swiftly.
I’m looking forward to flattening our classroom walls with Skype – I can’t wait to get started with my students.
Until next time!