It’s a brand new world of education, and Skype is leading the way. No longer simply a software application that allows users to make free voice calls over the Internet, its goal is to sign up a million classrooms and bring them together to share exciting projects and ideas.
Communicating around the world via the Internet is not new. My son, who is now 27, was in sixth grade when he took part in MayaQuest, a program that connected teachers and students with an expedition team in Central America as they explored the mysterious collapse of the ancient Maya civilization. Every day for two weeks, my son and his classmates talked to the experts via email and watched them as they made their way on bikes.
Connecting Classrooms Via The Internet Is Not New
And there are numerous other examples of teachers using the Internet to connect with classrooms around the globe, bring in guest speakers without asking them to travel, and take virtual field trips.
So how is Skype in the Classroom different?
“Skype has been going on for many, many years, and teachers have been finding each other and they’ve been finding ways to use the power of Skype in the educational process for a long time,” said Skype CEO Tony Bates on Wednesday at the Social Good Summit. “We really felt that it was time to take this to the next level…moving from grassroots Skype in the classroom to an initiative driven by Skype.”
Skype Making Global Communication Easier
In other words, what has long been accomplished between teachers using Wikis and individual project websites is now getting some organizational help from Skype.
Using the platform, teachers can create profiles that describe their classes and teaching interests. They can also search a directory of teachers from all over the world by student age range, language and subject.
What is perhaps Skype in the Classroom’s most useful feature is a “project” tab that helps teachers find partner classrooms for projects and ideas. One teacher, for instance, used the platform to coordinate a “weather around the world” unit. A middle school in Massachusetts regularly chats with an Afghan youth peace volunteer group. Another was able to host a virtual visit from Barbara Bush.
More Than 16,000 Teachers Signed On So Far