27 October 2014

Skype in the classroom: Regional Students benefit the most!

The notion of using Skype in the classroom is a new experience for some educators. It has been widely noted the benefits of using Skype in the classroom increases student engagement and profoundly assists educators in delivering content that may require specialist insight. Using Skype in the classroom is surprisingly easy to setup and exponentially rewarding for your students.

Benefit to regional students

Recently, I organised an informal Q&A session with Steven Maxwell of Markwell Presents. I pitched the idea of using Skype in the classroom with my year 11 Drama students and they were extremely excited. We'd been studying Cinematic Theatre in class for some time and the students had an analytical essay to write based on a play by Markwell Presents.   

The conversation was rich yet informal enough for the students to feel comfortable participating. Steven offered insights into the play that I as an educator couldn’t have possibly known. The benefit to the student’s work as a result of this kind of knowledge is incredible.

Some things to consider if you’re planning on using Skype in a similar context in your classroom:

Scaffold your lesson

I spent over a week teaching the students the fundamentals of this particular style of theater. I had shaped lessons with an inquiry based learning model so students would be better equipped to create their own questions for Steven during the interview.

Connection Issues

My school is located in a regional area of Far North Queensland and our infrastructure to handle connections to the internet over available broadband in the area is limited. That being said I tested the setup with Steven a few days earlier to make sure everything was working okay. I also scheduled our Skype session at a time when I thought other classes may not be using the network as much.

Audio Feedback

I was running our Skype session on a Surface Pro 3 and the inbuilt microphone worked great, a little too great even. I had the Surface Pro 3 connected to a projector and external speakers. At one point, the audio was being picked up through the microphone and looping on itself, thus creating feedback. By lowering the volume, the problem was eliminated. 

Possibilities of Skype in the classroom

Skype offers a world of possibilities in the classroom. You as the educator are only limited by your imagination and your willingness to be innovative. Your students are eager to step onto the global stage so try integrating Skype into your lessons for a rich and diverse learning experience.