I teach students who need to talk. You get better communicating by talking, and you can learn more by talking about something and explaining it. I wanted to use technology to get them talking and researched pieces of software that we could use. I received several recommendations for Skype (since it is peer to peer and also it is very good at getting through firewalls) and set up suitable accounts to use (I’ve previously used Skype at school myself for some long calls and knew that it works fine on our broadband connection).
I set a laptop up in a remote location in school together with a USB telephone handset (which Skype detected with no problems). This laptop was logged onto Skype and the screen positioned (and lighting checked) so that I would be able to see the person using the handset on the video stream. Students had a very brief lesson in Skype (how to dial and hang-up was all they required) and sent to the computer to call back. Students took it in turn to call back to the classroom and their video was displayed on the whiteboard. I used a headset microphone and acted as intermediate between the rest of the class (who were asking questions) and the caller.
What surprised me was the level of engagement, and even my most reluctant speakers were willing to have a go at phoning back to the classroom. Students who passed by were keen to join in and several asked if we could use Skype in their lesson. The technology worked well and we enjoyed clear and lag-free conversations about a number of topics.
I plan to use Skype again next week to work on our telephone skills (this was a careers lesson). Other ideas to try soon in other lessons include telephone hot seating (students take on a role and we take turns to phone them up and ask a question), telephone interviews and ‘ask an expert’.
I’d be interested to hear from anyone else who has used Skype in this way.