Whilst many of our adult memories of school might revolve around the sight of a large blackboard and white chalk, the astounding technological developments that have taken place over the last ten to fifteen years have resulted in our educational institutions being more interactive and digitally connected than ever before. There are a large amount of free programs that are available to be downloaded and utilized by teachers and students in today’s classroom environment, but perhaps one of the very best and most versatile is Skype, first and foremost a program that allows people to video call one another over distance, but in a broader sense a program that can open up an entire class of students to a large number of interesting opportunities and possibilities. Here are six of the best ways to get creative and make the most of Skype within a classroom setting.
Multi-Class CollaborationSkype can be used as a tool for allowing, for example, a class of American students to be able to get in contact with a class of Mexican students. Whilst years ago a pen pal system was extremely popular between schools in different countries, the use of Skype has given this idea an entirely more tactile and dimensional aspect, with students able to talk to one another and not only experience elements of foreign cultures but also sharpen up on their foreign language skills at the touch of a button. From having simple conversations to engaging in more challenging projects like writing songs together or having interesting and organised debates, Skype has the potential to vastly improve a student’s knowledge and direct experience of people from different countries or backgrounds.
Expert InterviewsThe great thing about Skype is that is allows a room of people to connect to virtually anyone from any walk of life and any profession, and this can be especially helpful for students who might want to interview or be given a lecture by somebody who is an expert on the topic that they are studying in class. Though no doubt the teachers do a fine job at conveying all the necessary information on any given topic, there is nothing quite like being able to communicate with a professor, lawyer, surgeon or historian on their specialty subject, and whilst it can be very difficult to arrange a field trip to a museum or hospital, it is much easier to organize a fifteen minute Skype call in which you can receive all of the education that you would have got from physically being there. Whether it is a Q&A, a sought after lecture or even a brief music lesson from an expert of a particular musical instrument, with Skype you can experience the benefits of outside teaching without the pain of extensive organizing.
Absent Student Can Join InNo matter how much a student may want to learn on a daily basis, sickness and ill health is always going to be an inevitable obstacle at least a few times a year. Fortunately, with Skype installed, a student will never have to miss out on their education again, through the opportunity to sit in on a class from the recuperating comfort of their own bed, or in more serious cases, hospital bed. Even better, if a student is in no fit state to follow along live, a lesson can be recorded and stored ready to watch when their temperature is down and they are feeling better. On a related note, Skype can also be utilized for parent-teacher conferences when one or other of the parties is unable to attend on the night.
TutoringIt is inevitable that some students are going to struggle with different subjects at school and will require the help of a tutor to catch up. A new trend that is beginning to catch on is for a teacher to set an hour or two period aside in their free time in which their students can contact them via Skype with any burning questions they need answered or facts that they need clarifying. This saves both worry for struggling students and it allows a teacher to actually make it home on time rather than having to stay back after class and attend to ten different students who need that extra bit of help. Following on from this, the idea of using Skype to connect with students opens up the possibility of an after-school tutoring program, arranged like a big conference call, that can be done from the comfort of home if your school does not have the means to host one on campus.
Virtual Career DayGoing to see the guidance counselor on careers day to have a boring, unimaginative discussion about what you might want to do when you grow up can be a waste of time, but with Skype, careers day can become a much more interactive and exploratory experience. With a few emails back and forth to confirm appointments and arrange times, a class of students can be treated to an entire day’s worth of virtual tours and conversations with professionals from many different vocations from mechanics to nurses to local government officials and everything in between. Alternatively, you can also arrange video calls with a number of different student’s parents who will be available to take questions about their own careers.
Better Group ProjectsThe task of completing a group project, up until now, had always been a tricky question of arranging meet ups and making sure everybody knew exactly what they were doing, but thankfully the introduction of Skype in to the classroom environment has made the entire process much easier and more rewarding. Students are now free to have conference calls from their own homes where they can get straight to work, and the same can be said for meetings for the school newspaper, book clubs, even the chess club! Scheduling has never been easier thanks to the virtual reality of Skype.