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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tearing Down Your Classroom Walls


Kara Cornejo-5th grade teacher at Zion Lutheran School in St. Charles, Missouri. 
Skype: karacornejo
Teachers have been using Skype to connect with other classrooms for a while now. However, teachers like myself, have had to use other social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to start the initial conversation with these classes.
The first time I used Skype in my classroom was to bring a Native American in to share more about their culture and traditions with my class. I initially had to use Twitter to find him.  But no longer do you need to search other sites for people/classes to Skype with.
Skype has now launched a new portion of their website called “Skype in the Classroom.”  Skype in the Classroom was started to make it easier for teachers to connect with other teachers or classrooms from around the world. Skype is now making it possible to collaborate with people you would have never had the opportunity to bring into your classroom. Teachers are using this section of their website to connect with other teachers that may be learning the same concepts or searching for teachers or professionals who might be able to bring something new to their students. You are no longer only limited to what is in your textbooks.
And it’s simple to get started. Log in to Skype. The first thing you will want to do is set up a profile. Use this opportunity to tell other teachers what you are studying in your classroom and what subjects you are interested in connecting with other schools. Do you teach Science? Social Studies? Are you looking for pen pals? Or are you open to anything? You will also want to add a location to your profile so teachers can find you by simply browsing a map.
When Skype in the Classroom first started you had to file through all the teachers profiles to find someone who was doing some of the same teaching as you. Now Skype has added an awesome feature to Skype in the Classroom, the Projects section. Teachers can now list their projects that they are interested in connecting with other schools on. This makes it so much easier for teachers to search for projects in their grade/subject level.
Skype in the Classroom is a great tool to build your PLN (Personal Learning Network). I feel that the bigger your PLN is the more people you will bring into your classroom and the more your students are going to learn.
Just recently I was searching for classes all over the world to join us in a “Weather Around the World” unit. After searching for approximately one minute, I found another teacher who was looking for the same thing. We connected and I decided that I wanted more classes involved. I then put on my profile (this was before the Projects section on the website) that I was looking for classes to participate in a weather unit with us. After about 48 hours I had several other schools from Canada to London to right here in the US willing to participate. 
Skype in the Classroom has also featured me and my story in these news articles.
Mashable                                    FierceVoIP                                    Digital Technology

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