Creative Ways To Use Skype In The Classroom
The answer: in more ways than you could imagine. While Skype was not designed as an educational tool, it’s quickly becoming one as teachers discover the many ways it enriches their lessons and the lives of their students. Even something as simple as hosting a guest speaker through a video call can add excitement to a lesson.
As with any tech tool, it can seem daunting to introduce this into your classroom at first. If you don’t know where to start, try one of these five creative ideas.
1. Mystery Skype
Spin this lesson as a game and you’ll have students on board right away. The idea is simple: connect with a class from another city, state or country and assign your students with the task of figuring out where the Skype class is located.
This has become a popular way to use this tool—so much so that it even has a name now: Mystery Skype—because it challenges your students in a variety of ways.
Get started with these four simple steps from Nicole Long, a language arts teacher who has Mystery Skyped with students in France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland and all across the United States.
- Set up a Google Calendar to track you sessions.
- Compile student resources. “For the first session I compiled a list of resources and added them to the sheet; these resources provide tips on how to navigate Google Maps, a World atlas and a map of different time zones, among other things,” said Long.
- Create and practice with sample questions.
- Remind students to establish order for their questions based on the real-time information they learn about the other class: “Questions are only as relevant as the information you have,” explains Long.
Check out Using Mystery Skype as a Classroom Tool to learn more about Long’s experience and find out where you can connect with participating classes.
2. Guest Speakers
Guest speakers enhance nearly any lesson. “Though I may be confident in my teaching, I know that someone with expertise in a particular area will be better at communicating the subtleties of the topic from a position of authority. A guest speaker conveys current, realistic information and a perspective on a subject that is not available from textbooks,” says Patricia A. Mullins, from University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Skype allows you to bring guest speakers into the classroom, no matter where they are in the world. Use it to give your students an experience they wouldn’t have otherwise while adding an exciting and educational element to your lesson. Popular Skype guests include:
- Computer science professionals
- College professors
3. Parent Readers
Many children come from homes with two working parents, and neither parent has time to be present in the classroom on a weekday. With Skype, however, they can join the classroom from their work desk. Here are a few ways you can invite parents into the classroom:
- Start a Parent Read Aloud series that allows them to read a book to the class via Skype.
- Invite a few parents to connect during student presentations or for a classroom party.
Remember: If parents are connected to watch a performance or presentation, be sure their microphones are on mute so noises from their office won’t distract students.
4. Foreign Language Learning
There are few better ways to learn a new language than to hear it from the lips of someone who speaks in the native tongue. With Skype you can have these speakers address your class, regardless of where they are. The benefits of adding this feature to your language lesson are many. For example:
- Skyping with a native speaker brings the language to life.
- Practicing with a native speaker is not something many students could experience without Skype.
- Students can learn about non-verbal aspects of different languages, like gestures in the Italian culture.
- Students can become the teacher, helping the other person (or students) learn English as well.
- Native speakers will talk in their natural dialect, which can’t be fully experienced with a textbook.
5. Virtual Field Trip
Using Skype to take a virtual field trip is beneficial to your students in a two ways:
- Many children will never make it to a foreign county in their life. This allows them to experience that without leaving town.
- "Visiting” a place they’re learning about in class brings an entirely new perspective to the lesson and helps them get a feel for the culture.
Consider how these “field trips” can best enhance your lesson. For example, the cobblestone streets of Rome are much different from the streets most students walk in the United States. Skype lets them experience that.
Remember to do your research beforehand to find the location that best exemplifies the distinctive attributes of the location and go there. Visit Skype’s Cultural Exchange to find people who are willing to show you around these places.
Skype is quickly becoming a popular classroom tool, and for good reason: it’s a free tool with more uses than many premium programs. Consider where you can make space for this tool in your lessons and how it would be most beneficial to your students.