Skype is a simple yet extremely effective tool for learning

dan on skype

Last week I stepped in to cover an extracurricular ICT club at my school where hard core ICT evangelists between 11-15 years of age attend week by week because they are keen on ICT. The ICT teachers who run it do some fantastic and innovative things with the students such as doing their own game designs etc and are planning to make more of an impact on the school by using the time to plan and support teachers in using technology and in lessons.

Stepping in last week I decided to add a more international flavour to the club, I asked them if they had used some of the web 2.0 tools I had been using in my lessons and discovered that none of them were familiar with Glogster so we used that and posted our glogs to an international collaborative wikispace. (I plan to write a separate post on this later!)

However one of the most exciting parts and most surprising was what we did at the end of the session. I happened to have skype open on my laptop and one of my PLN was on and about to teach a lesson. This was my good friend Lois McGill-Horn who is a Canadian teacher who teaches at Balmoral High School in Winnipeg. I first met Lois at the Worldwide Innovative Teachers Forum in Hong Kong in November 2008 and we have collaborated on international projects with other teachers ever since. She has done some fantastic projects and you can read more about her on her blog and on twitter. We decided there and then to do a video conference with our sets of students using skype – it was incredible, my students were so fascinated and just couldn’t believe that they were sat there talking to students in Canada about learning, in fact they ended up staying 45 minutes after they should have because they were absolutely loving the experience. There was an amazing moment where my students took the webcam and laptop and walked round the school, they stopped to show the Canadian girls our main hall where Grease the musical was due to take place.

It made me think why don’t more teachers link up this way within their lessons? Our school is innovative in the use of technology and has many international links, we are currently going for the full International School Award but we hardly ever seem to use skype in lessons. In fact I have used it once or twice before but not for ages, I am definitely going to use it more in the future. Why don’t more teachers use it? Do you use it often? If so what sort of things do you use it for to enhance the learning of your students?


on “Skype is a simple yet extremely effective tool for learning
20 Comments on “Skype is a simple yet extremely effective tool for learning
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  2. This is one of the questions I’ve been asking myself lately. It’s just such a simple yet powerful idea that it’s odd, to say the least, that people haven’t been using it more frequently. If we are willing to prepare our students to face a global world, why not starting by giving them the chance to experience this globalisation from the very beginning of their school years? If we believe that PLNs make a difference, why not try to show this to our learners at the same time we let them build their own PLN?



  3. There is so much potential in using Skype but it is prohibited in too many schools. It is so easy for teachers to use and could really support the use of VC in many more places.

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  7. I can see so many uses for Skype in the classroom. I have 2 ah-ha Skype moments. Many years ago I was presenting at a conference about a webquest 8th graders in my county were doing and I decided to let the students answer the questions since they were the experts on world travel and the project specifics. The teachers video conference with this small group of representatives from the class and the students really showed us their stuff. Many sited that experience as one of their favorite parts of the program. The second was last year when a 4th grade class in VA Beach wanted to know about the Appalachian Plateau and their computer resource specialist was a friend of mine and set up a video conference since, I do in fact live in that region of VA. The students took turns presenting information about their region, then interviewed me about my experiences growing up in my region. They asked some tough questions about geology and geography! It was fantastic. Now there are more and more joining in Virginia on this use of Skype. I’m not in the regular classroom, but I think if I were I would try to use it as often as possible. I think it’s like the wheel and slice bread but with a bad PR firm! How can we get more teachers to try it?

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  9. These are fantastic comments Henrick! I totally agree, do you use skype with your students? That is a fantastic idea to get students to start building a PLN – they could start within their own school and then more globally. That is a great idea for a project – do you mind if I steal it?

  10. Some great comments Heather it sounds like you have been involved in some amazing projects yourself in the past. What do you do now? Do you work with other teachers then if you are not in the classroom? Do you have any ideas on possible uses of Skype?

  11. I use Skype extensively in my classroom. I teach in Canada and my entire Social Studies curriculum is studying the geography and culture of Canada. We skype (it’s a verb in our class!) with classes all over the country to get a sense of the vast size and varying geography. We tie it to a larger global scale to connect with classes outside of Canada to see how the rest of the world views Canadians. Today we are skyping with New York to compare and contrast our two countries. We skyped with Arizona to show them snow. I love to make our skype sessions very interactive. We will line up the kids and fire basic math facts at them from both teachers and see which end can answer first, they get very competitive – and that’s just the teachers!
    I use it to check back in with my class when I’m away. I was in Brazil recently and Skyped back to say hello (from the beach!) and to deal with a discipline issue. Nothing like having your teacher punishing you from 6000km away! It is such an incredibly easy and portable tool that it can bring a new dimension to teaching and learning with a simple click.

  12. Hi there,

    Feel free to implement the project and let me know the results. I’m in touch with a teacher in Argentina and we’ve got something being prepared for next year. We could use an extra hand and, of course, lots of great ideas. Interested? What about setting up a Skype meeting one of these days so we can talk about it?


  13. we use skype on a regular basis – as a whole class or the kids use their individual accounts.

    we might skype in experts to discuss such things as:
    1. how to build a good catapult 🙂
    2. best uses of twitter
    3. what colleges are doing
    4. what life in another country is like
    5. help with math problems/projects
    6. how we can help kids in need

    or for the kids to talk to their peers
    1. within our school
    2. outside of our school
    3. in other states/countries

    i use the chat personally daily to talk to colleagues from around the world and to talk to my students…

    we’ve even used it to talk to others in the building…

    we’re hoping/planning to record a song with some of our musicians and musicians from least croatia and uganda next semester… via the inspiration of playing for change.

  14. Fully agree that there is massive potential and it is of huge value to staff and students, as well as being so simple to use. And free! We have been using it to hold meetings and to allow the Principal to “visit” classrooms to see learning across the school and pass on messages and encouragement to the students.

    Was wondering if there are any child protection/safeguarding issues that anyone is aware of – has it been suggested that it may be dangerous to allow other adults to “see” into a classroom for example? What policies do people have in place?

    many thanks

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