As many of you know, as well as being a mum and blogger, I'm also a teacher. Last week, I used Skype at school for the first time ever for a live webcam chat with a school in Kentucky. It was a lot easier to set up than I imagined and it all ran without a hitch. (Phew!) The kids loved it and got really excited and motivated, which is a rare thing for some of them ! Within ten minutes, they'd learned about the American kids having to hide under their tables last week when a tornado passed by, about them standing up every morning hand on heart and taking the Pledge of Allegiance and about their ten minutes in between each of their classes to go to their lockers. I found it fascinating to see the kind of questions they asked too ! We'll be doing it all over again tomorrow, this time working out some questions and answers in advance so that we can guide the discussion on to predetermined themes. (That's the plan anyway !).
I was already really chuffed to see how well it all worked but I've just discovered that there is also a Skype in the Classroom resource, that makes it much easier for schools to find classes to pair up with. I'm off to sign up right now but thought I'd tell you about it too. This press release is from last year so it's probably all evolved since then.
LUXEMBOURG, March 30th, 2011 – School teachers and students everywhere now have an easy way to find each other for collaborative projects and shared learning through a new online platform provided by Skype. Skype in the classroom is a free global community created in response to, and in consultation with, the growing number of teachers using Skype to help their students learn. Teachers can use the tool to collaborate with other teachers, and find partner classes and guest speakers. Skype in the classroom is designed to help like-minded teachers find each other and relevant projects according to search criteria such as the age groups they teach, location and subjects of interest; and teaching resources can be easily shared and found.
In the past, many teachers have found that the biggest challenge to using Skype in their classrooms has been finding similar classes to pair with. Skype in the classroom presents a solution by bringing like-minded teachers together online and making it easy for them to share skills and ideas.
Today more and more teachers all over the world use Skype to make learning more exciting, interactive and memorable. From language studies and geography lessons to virtual field trips and expert speakers joining classes from afar, Skype video offers an immediate way to help students discover new cultures, languages and ideas, all without leaving the classroom. In addition, teachers are being encouraged to do more to share their expertise and experiences systematically in ways that go beyond the mere exchange of information. It is also reported that teachers who exchange ideas and information and co-ordinate their practices with other teachers report more positive teacher-student relations at their own schools.
The platform, which has been in beta since the end of December, already has a community of more than 3000 teachers, across 99 countries. Kara Cornejo, who teaches a 5th grade class in Missouri, USA, and is an avid Skype user, found five schools around the world to collaborate with on an international weather project within just one day of joining. “Skype in the classroom is an amazing resource to find teachers to collaborate with and to bring people into your classroom that you would never have been able to.”
The Global Learning Exchange, a program designed to create borderless classrooms and allow students to learn about other cultures seamlessly has been using Skype video for four years. Regular exchanges between Jurong West primary school children in Singapore and Bill Williams Elementary school students in California, USA “has helped all 260 students from both schools build relationships with one another and facilitated learning that is not limited by geographical borders,” said co-founder Manuel Rose Delema. “Skype makes learning fun and engaging as children look forward to meeting their global friends and asking questions.”
In a similar way, Skype is also used to connect 9-10 year old students at Lakanal School in Lille, France with their peers in Prince Edouard Island, Canada. “Before arranging the first video call, our students exchanged letters and emails but we decided to bring the two classes together face-to-face over Skype video to enrich their relationship,” said Christophe Fetat, the teacher at Lakanal School. “The result was amazing. Students were really engaged to discuss different topics. It is really a simple and effective way to exchange ideas, learn and bring other cultures into the class.”
“Skype is committed to removing the barriers to communications and enabling conversations around the world with technology that is easy to use and affordable,” said Tony Bates, Skype Chief Executive Officer. “Skype in the classroom has been developed for a specific community of people who have a shared interest and are passionate about using technology in inventive ways in their classroom. We’ve received positive feedback from teachers and are keen to continue developing the site to meet their needs and help school children around the world work together in wonderful ways never thought possible.”
To join Skype in the classroom, teachers should:
1) Sign up at education.skype.com using their Skype account details
2) Create a profile which includes their interests, location and the age groups they teach
3) Explore the directory to find projects, teachers and resources that match their skills, needs or interests
Skype in the classroom is a members-only community. Once teachers find someone they want to connect with they can add that person as a Skype contact or send them a message through the site.
To find projects, teachers, resources, and inspiration visit www.education.skype.com
You can get news and updates from Skype in the classroom via Twitter: twitter.com/SkypeClassroom or Facebook: www.facebook.com/skypeintheclassroom and from Skype on its blogs.skype.com, Twitter: twitter.com/skype, or Facebook: www.facebook.com/skype.
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