is an awesome world-opener for education. Imagine being able to bring in experts from anywhere on any subject to teach, inspire, and motivate your students. Imagine being able to talk to an author
of a book your class just finished reading, and ask him or her questions about the book. Imagine conversing and collaborating with a class
half-way around the world. All of this, and more is possible with Skype.
If you are planning on using Skype in your classroom, head over to Silvia Tolisano’s blog
for everything you’ll need to get started. If you’d like to see a recent Skype interview my 5th graders had recently with history experts from Singapore’s Ministry of Education, click here
This post, however, is in response to an email from a parent I recently received about safety concerns of using Skype. The email focused on every negative aspect of technology that has ever been broadcast on the evening news, and although it was fairly clear that I would not be changing the parent’s mind, I did gather the following research and information to state our reasonings for using Skype in the classroom. Not all parents will be initially supportive of the use of this technology, so if you are planning on using Skype in the classroom, I recommend you lay out your rationale to parents beforehand as we did, to ease any worries that parents may have.
Here is a permission slip
that we used for our Skype-In project.
- We have a policy at our school to prepare our students for the 21st century and beyond. We teach and utilize tools that aid in collaboration. We teach students how to use these tools in a safe environment where we can monitor mistakes and turn them into teachable moments.
- First and foremost, we show students how to use the security features within Skype and teach the students how to do this so that only people within their contact list can communicate with them. We also teach them:
- To not put details in their profiles (names, birthdates, addresses, etc.) that should not be publicly available
- How to spot phishing scams and what to do when they happen
- How to block unknown contact requests
- How to create strong passwords
- Appropriate online etiquette
- Studies have shown that children begin using social media at younger and younger ages. Not preparing them for this world (their world) would be doing them a disservice. Being able to teach them the skills of safety within online/social environments is part of all of our jobs as educators and parents. If we turn a blind eye to this, we will only be exacerbating the problem by allowing them to try to stumble their way through on their own.
- Internal surveys of our students found that 26% of 3rd graders, 35% of 4th graders and 53% of 5th graders have social media accounts (Facebook and/or Myspace) and use them regularly. I’m not saying this is good or bad, but it’s the reality of today’s student. Where are they going to learn the necessary skills of an ever-more increasing digital world?
As Wayne Morren, principal of Florida High School noted recently:
“Teaching and learning in the 21st Century can no longer be a traditional experience of “sit and get.” Teachers as well as students must strive to creatively employ technology tools to access, evaluate, synthesize and communicate information. Only by engaging in this active process can “information” from the Internet be translated into “knowledge” in the minds of learners. Classroom teachers can leverage the potential of disruptive technologies like Skype, weblogs, podcasts, or one to one technology immersion initiatives to increase student motivation to communicate with authentic audiences, spend more time on assigned tasks, and develop essential literacy skills needed for vocational and lifetime success in the twenty-first century. Translated, this means increasing student achievement, while simultaneously encouraging students as well as teachers to engage in worthwhile and creative tasks. Twenty-first century educators should aspire for nothing less.”
From the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, 2010:
“In proceeding forward, schools must understand that the past decade has been characterized by technopanic ~ a heightened concern about the use of the Internet by young people that is not grounded in the actual research evidence.”
From AVG, 2010:
“Nearly three quarters (73 percent) of children under two have some kind of digital footprint, such as online albums or email addresses.”
Benefits of Using Skype in the Classroom
- Social interaction allows the learner to reflect and reconsider, get help and support, and participate in authentic problem solving.
- Benefits for learners include:
- improved learning strategies
- greater perseverance, and reduced need for help from the instructor
- Social interaction provides critical opportunities for learners who are learning at a distance
- The types of social interactions that would normally occur in a face-to-face setting (discussion, sharing, peer review, group activities, etc.) need to occur via online technologies and tools in online learning environments
- Internet technologies offer opportunities to connect people and objects that are not in the immediate physical environment. Using Skype in the online classroom improves social interaction and helps to create an authentic peer review environment.
Uses of Skype in the Classroom
- Videoconferencing in the Classroom – Utilising experts, authors, and guest instructors who would never otherwise be able to visit the school.
- Virtual Field Trips – Using video chatting to bring the field trip into the classroom – for example, visiting a TV production site guided by one of the student´s parents who works there, which includes all students despite budgetary or distance constraints.
- Foreign Language Learning and Cultural Exchange – Teachers use Skype to connect local students with native speaking students from other countires.
- After School Help – Tutors and teachers can provide after school help to students needing extra attention via Skype.
- Student Inclusion – Helping an ill classmate join the classroom from home.
- Foreign Culture Lessons – Skype allows students to see in real-time what people’s lives, homes, schools, weather, and more look like in other countries.
- Volunteer to help kids in India learn English – Connect with schools in developing countries for both cultural connections and educational benefits
There are so many stellar learning opportunities out there when you open up the world to your classroom. There will always be the rare individual who is against new technology or who suffers from techn0-panic. Often, they are simply concerned for the well-being of their children and are probably unaware of how things work. As teachers, we are not only educating our students, but quite often, the parents as well.