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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Increase Student Engagement with Skype in the Classroom

Guest Post from Lisa Mims.

It’s always amazing to me how educators, can grab hold of something that wasn’t developed with us in mind, and make it our own. We have a knack for doing that, and we’ve done it with Skype. With Skype, educators are knocking down classroom walls,allowing our students the chance to hear from experts, and creating global learners.

I heard wonderful stories of teachers using Skype in their classrooms, and I envied them. I vowed that 2011-2012, I would take advantage of Skype.  At the beginning of the school year, I got webcams from DonorsChoose. Then I bugged my IT person for three weeks, until he finally came  in and hooked up my webcam. (Not that I didn’t know how, but I didn’t have administrative access).  We were ready!

My first experience was Mystery State. I connected with a teacher in another state. Our students exchanged clues in order to guess each other’s states. We did this several times with various classes throughout the U.S., during the school year.  Each teacher had their own preference  for how it was done.

We participated in the Global Read Aloud Project . Students from all over the world read “Tuck Everlasting” and then discussed it. I connected with a teacher in Mississippi, and our classes had a book discussion via Skype! What an opportunity to engage our students and promote critical thinking!

We Skyped with a marine biologist and a student marine biologist! The student biologist Skyped from a beach in Florida!  The questions were flying and our experts answered every one of them! On World Read Aloud Day, we had an author, a CNN analyst, and his wife read “A Wrinkle in Time”, a story we were enjoying for Read Aloud.

All of my connections were made through Twitter, but you can find experts anywhere! A parent, someone in your community, anyone who would be willing to Skype with your students, and provide that “real world” application so often missing from our lessons.  

An excellent resource, that I did not take advantage of last year, is Skype in the Classroom. This site gives you access to an enormous amount of projects, with people all over the world, who are willing to Skype with our students.

Helpful Tips for Implementing Skype in the Classroom
  • Make sure Skype is not blocked in your district. If it is, find out who can unblock it.
  • Create a Skype account.
  • Classroom management is a must! Assign jobs.
  • Make sure everyone can be seen and heard.

  • Do a test run before the actual Skype.
  • Make sure there’s someone there who can help if you need it, it could be a student.
  • Be prepared! My kids always had their questions on index cards.
  • Have a time limit.
  • Don’t panic if the tech messes up, it happens! :) Reschedule.
  • If Skyping with someone who has given of their time, send Thank you letters or notes. (optional)


There are so many ways to use Skype in your classroom, hopefully you will take advantage of at least one! Who you gonna call? :)

Lisa Mims is a 27+ year educator, who is still passionate about teaching! She is a 5th grade teacher in New Castle, DE. She loves discovering, and learning, about creative, techy, ways to engage her students. Lisa is the author of two blogs, Diary of a Public School Teacher! and Word of Mouth:Tech Tools and Resources! She can also be found on Twitter @BriteEyes49.

The Most Popular Guest Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

There is a trail through there.
Good morning from the Free Technology for Teachers world headquarters in Greenwood, Maine. I'm back from a week of mountain biking in the highlands of Iceland. If you're ever in Iceland, I recommend visiting BikeCompany.is and inquiring about tours.

In a classic case of "the Internet really does connect us," shortly after we met, one of the guides for the trip who is also a teacher said to me, "oh yes, I saw your name as a presenter for iPad Summit USA." Fortunately, we both recognized it was vacation and didn't spend too much time talking shop during the week. Although teachers never really do stop talking shop completely.

While I was away I ran guest posts from educators who were willing to share their experiences with you. Thank you to all of the guest writers who helped me out this week. Below is the list of the most read guest posts of the week.

1. One Music Class - One iPad - Now What?
2. The Teacher-Librarian is Your Best Tech Resource
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