Tips for Integrating Skype in Your Classroom

skype classroomIf you're in education, you've likely heard stories about incorporating Skype into the classroom. Intrigued but skeptical? Try it once, and you'll be hooked.

Skype in the Classroom Overview:
Many of us have used Skype as a personal communication tool to keep in touch with loved ones in faraway places. Did you know that it’s also being used in the classroom as a teaching tool? Skype in the Classroom launched in December of 2010. A few months later, Microsoft announced the acquisition of Skype in 2011. Skype in the Classroom is a platform to assist teachers to connect with each other, find lessons, book guest speakers, or even take a virtual field trip.

The first step in getting started is to create a profile on the Microsoft Educator Community. Setting up your profile allows you access to book Skype partners and the ability to message other educators. It also allows you to be found by other educators should they wish to connect with you.

Ready to get started?

If you feel overwhelmed with how to begin using Skype in your classroom, there is an easy way to start: Coordinate a Mystery Skype with your students! So what is a Mystery Skype? This educational game connects two classrooms that are somewhere in the world. Teachers will know where (and who) they’re calling, but students will not. The goal of Mystery Skype is to locate the other class geographically. Students must ask Yes/No formatted questions. (Are you East of the Mississippi River?) This type of experience gets all your students engaged and also geographically proficient! Consider dividing students into groups and assigning a different job/role to each group to be responsible for during the Skype.

Some suggestions for jobs would be:

  • Students who are on camera asking the questions
  • Researchers to assist those asking questions
  • Students who keep track of questions that were asked
  • Mappers to cross off parts of the world that have been eliminated
  • Documentarians (Allow students to record video or take photos of your Skype)
  • Map research (Those students on a device looking at interactive maps)

It’s also very important to determine which students cannot be filmed or published on the Internet before you begin. Be sure to keep those students out of camera range but fully involved within a group. This also teaches your students good digital citizenship by not only protecting themselves but how to act on camera. I always tell our students that they are not only representing their class but their grade, school, city, state, and even country. Some Skype partners may never have spoken to Americans, so it was important to give a good impression.

So how do you find Skype partners? There are several ways! The first would be to search on the Microsoft Educator Network. From this page, you can easily search Skype partners by location, time zone, or even availability. Another great way to connect is to find partners who are on Twitter. You can filter Skype partners by those who are on Twitter, and click on the icon to message them directly. Whether you’re an experienced Skype teacher or not, all educators can benefit from the resources found on the Skype Classroom section of the Microsoft Educator Network.

Kyle_CalderwoodKyle Calderwood is the Technology Coordinator at Tuckerton Elementary school in New Jersey. In 2014, he became a Google Certified Innovator at GTAUK in London. Last year he became a Skype Master Teacher as well as a Microsoft Innovative Educator. He is passionate about connecting students and teachers globally. He is also an adjunct professor at Stockton University where he teaches a digital literacy course for undergraduates that prepares them for their intended careers. Kyle has presented at ISTE, FETC, TCEA, EdCamps, and TeachMeets all over the US and also at Bett in the UK. You can connect with him on Twitter @kcalderw.