A few weeks ago I got an email requesting my participation on a Skype video conference. The request came from the Marquette University Ronald McNair program. As a former undergraduate fellow of the McNair program, I jumped at the chance. If you teach teenagers and are unfamiliar with this program, or any of the EOP/ TRIO programs, it is worth checking out. The opportunities and experiences offered our immensely valuable to any student.
Well, I digress…back to Skype. I was almost too ashamed to say that I was not a ‘skyper’. Finally, I broke the news to the director, but promised to be ready for the video conference either way. I followed the super simple directions he sent me (THREE steps) and was up and running with a Skype account in less than ten minutes. I decided to experiment and uploaded my gmail contacts. Skype matched up any contacts with Skype accounts. WOW! Apparently 1/2 of every adult I know has a Skype account. I loaded in my contacts, ran to the bathroom to throw on some make-up and earrings, and began video-calling everyone I knew.
Implications for Students
After having such an engaging time skyping with my friends and co-workers, I knew that I had to bring this to my students. If I was engaged through this medium, surely my students would be! I paid a visit to my good friend, The Google, and was amazed with what I found out about how Skype is used in the classroom. Here are a few of the great ideas that I plan to steal immediately!
1. Pen pals—Ditch the paper and speak face to face. This opens up options for more in depth projects and deeper interactions.
2.Language studies—Do you teach another language? Open up some communication with native language speakers. Students can interact with everyday people that speak the language that they are learning.
3. Journalism—Interview that editor, writer, or reporter with your whole class. Open up a dialogue that isn’t one sided.
4. Holidays around the world–Venture out and make friends. Get a class pen pal or just a buddy in another state, culture, or community. Partner up and exchange ideas at that special time of the year for your students. See how others recognize special days.