Skype is not new to me. It is not something I use personally because I am fine just speaking to friends and family without the visual aspects it offers. The message feature is similar to other texting features on other devices. It is easier for me to just use the phone and the handy quick text list I have there with half phrases ready to go. There is not anyone I care about who has been far away for a really long time. If I missed seeing someone, I might have a desire to Skype. Besides, the iPad offers face time which is super easy. I must confess that I usually use “talk time” to clean out a junk drawer, empty or fill the dishwasher and complete a dozen other mindless chores. I would not want to Skype while scrubbing a counter or floor!
I have Skype on the desktop at school. Recently, while completing this class Skype assignment, I ran into frustrations because I had to ask for password assistance since I have it on autopilot at school. I also discovered I needed to use an administrator’s code that I did not have handy in order to download on the laptop I was using. I could access the account but could not make a connection. Finally, after getting the Skype app downloaded on the iPad and actually making a connection to a colleague who happened to be online and was kindly attempting to politely make an appointment to Skype, we ran into some sort of tech difficulties. I could not hear the voice of my colleague although it was nice to actually see the person. We ended up using the chat feature. I do have that nice visual in my head of a kind face when I read his engaging blog!
At school the Skype feature is ready to go and attached to an interactive white board for easy viewing in the classroom and also in the social room on a full auditorium screen. There is also an IT person to assist teachers to assure a “no frustration” experience. Skype has been used at my school to sing with buddies in Costa Rica. Students have practiced language skills by Skype with classes in Switzerland and Columbia, discovering both similarities and differences in cultures and educational systems. When a teacher was in the Czech Republic, she used Skype to let us know what sights she was viewing. While participating in a Fair Trade event, several schools, including ours, ate fair trade bananas together and got to meet. Sometimes alums, like one who completed astronaut training at NASA, are the guest experts via Skype. The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (cilc) has also been a source for learning initiatives. We have used Skype to host music, theater, author talks, virtual field trips and other types of assemblies. These opportunities have enriched students and helped create connections and communication in a way that just reading or seeing pictures could not. It is great for students to be able to ask and answer questions. It really makes all of us feel like participants.
The school has used Skype for professional development opportunities as well. Some years back, when we were receiving feedback for re-certification, the outside team communicated to faculty and staff via Skype because of the forecast of inclement weather. I think Skype is great for professional development because it creates an easy way to have conversations and discussions minus the travel expense. It is also a way to screen and interview individuals and groups who might come to the school.It is a way to build professional collaborative learning networks.
I think Skype is useful and definitely has a place in schools for students and teachers.