Education CIOs looking to add new tools to the learning environment will want to have a look at Skype in the Classroom, a low-cost collaborative option for teachers.
Skype in the Classroom is just one of the many offerings from VoIP service Skype -- which was acquired by Microsoft in October 2011 -- that will appeal to education CIOs who have already deployed other Microsoft products. For example, ZDNet reports that Microsoft is planning to discontinue Microsoft Live Messenger on March 15, 2013, and replace it with Skype, which includes built-in messaging. The latest version, Skype 6.1, released on January 10, integrates with Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP, enabling users to initiate Skype calls directly with contacts in Microsoft Outlook.
Launched in March 2011, Skype in the Classroom has been used by more than 47,000 teachers to date to conduct more than 2,400 lessons, according to the company. In addition, Skype in the Classroom has 17 partners including NASA, The Virginia Historical Society, The Science Museum in London, The New York Philharmonic, and The National Museum of the Royal Navy.
Bringing Skype in the Classroom to your school doesn't require a big investment. Even schools with low budgets can take advantage of this useful tool. Skype in the Classroom uses simple VoIP technology, it's free, and it's easy for IT to implement and maintain. The greatest challenge for some schools may be the availability of reliable WLAN WiFi network that can handle the video bandwidth required. You also need to budget for monitors or projection screens for the classrooms in which you wish to use the solution.
Training teachers and administrators to use Skype in the Classroom should be relatively easy. According to the StatisticBrain website, 560 million people worldwide have tried Skype at least once, and, as of January 2012, the service had 31 million regular users. This level of familiarity, and the solution's user-friendly interface, means that most teachers won't need any special training.
Once Skype in the Classroom is up and running, the possibilities for learning are endless. For example, a French-language teacher in the US might be able to use the solution to connect his class with a class in France, enabling students to practice conversing with native-speakers their own age. Imagine such students being able to have a real conversation with French students in which they discuss topics of interest to them and learn about one another's culture.
Here are some additional real-world examples of how Skype in the Classroom is being used:
NASA uses Skype in the Classroom to offer lessons about galaxies, planet discoveries, the current space missions, life and work in space, and everything about the universe. The courses are taught by NASA experts through NASA's Digital Learning Network (DLN).
A museum educator from the Virginia Historical Society guides a Skype lesson that includes a question-and-answer period. The society emails a PDF package to the educator with suggested pre- and post-program activities, vocabulary, historical background, and sources. The programs are set up for different age groups. If, for example, the teacher needs to teach about Pocahontas and the Powhatan Indians, a one-hour program can be arranged with a school program educator for that class.
Penguin Books, another Skype in the Classroom partner, arranges for authors to speak to English classes. In the video below, we see how Penguin Books and the participating school arranged a lesson in which author Jojo Moyes gives advice on writing and answers questions from the students.
How to be an IT hero at school
If you want to be an IT hero at your school, then at the end of the year, you can surprise the teachers and younger students by arranging a Skype visit to Santa's office in Lapland, Finland. The children can ask for what they want for Christmas. (Make sure you get all the details and email all the parents immediately with the secret information. Everyone will love you.)
For inspiration, watch this video, in which Santa visits a classroom in the UK. Lynn Edwards, the IT Coordinator at Cronton Primary School, won a competition and received $10,000 in Microsoft technology for her school. As a bonus, she was granted a Skype call with Santa for the little ones:
How would you deploy Skype in the Classroom in your education environment? What challenges do you see in making this option available in your school? Tell us how you'd most like to see Skype in the Classroom applied to education.
Wow what a wonderful tool and idea for children or everybody around the world to connect and learn. Technology is amazing. With so much or resources available we can help children learn so much of other languages and cultures around the world
Exactly! I can tell with certainty that Skype in the Classroom can be, and should be used intensively by language teachers around the globe. All what you say is true, and it was -until some extent- justified in the past because we didn't count with all the technology tools for communication that we have available today.
Learning a language is about communication, not only about grammar rules. Teachers should connect their language students evry week with foreign schools.
Are those people who you have encountered from a younger or older generation? I find that younger generations are much better at having the confidence of communicating in different languages. Technology, and the Internet has a great deal to do with this.
I think this solution will be a future tool in education. I especially like the idea about giving students of languages the opportunity to communicate with native speakers of the language which they are learning. This can actually give the students the ability to improve their skills in communicating in a foreign language. I have personally met countless of people who are afraid to speak in a language that was taught to them in School because they did not have any real experience of speaking the Language. In this way, I see Skype in the classroom as a very useful tool.
The good thing is that MIT offeres online courses, not sure if also degrees. Most like you know that. :)
In any case, keep your dream up and make it true. It's never too late to study more, or learn new things. Especially today, when everything gets updated so fast. We have to stay atop of the latest. This is true in all areas of study, but as you know, quite true in technology.
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