Imagine you are given the opportunity to take your class anywhere in the world (with Skype, of course) to experience culture, interact with others (ask questions, answer questions, practice conversation skills, hear native languages), exchange ideas, learn, and just be kids with other kids. Wouldn’t that be fabulous? Depending on the demographics of your school, many of your students will not have the opportunity to travel outside of their state, let alone around the world. This experience will open your students' eyes to the world around them and the opportunities that the world has to offer.
One of my biggest goals as a teacher is to teach and build character in my littles and broaden their awareness of others. Using Skype in my classroom does just that. It has transformed the way I prepare my lessons and the way my class approaches learning. This past semester I made a commitment to integrate Skype into our learning and, to be honest, it was incredibly easy to do and truly exciting for me. I still get butterflies of excitement and a little bit of nerves before we participate in a Skype. It amazes me to be able to click “call” and be connected to a class around the world.
Here are some amazing ways we have chosen to utilize Skype this past semester:
- Our introduction to Skype so we could practice our speaking skills, body language, and behavior was through a call to my mother-in-love. She lives on a farm, and we had just finished learning about apples. We were able to meet the “other” Mrs. Bailey, take a tour of her property, meet the animals on the farm, and feed apples to the donkeys. We created a chart of questions before calling her and students took turns asking and answering questions. It was during this lesson that I became a Skype believer as one of my autistic littles shined in a way I had never seen before, this is his thing and I will Skype everyday if I can get that response from him again and again.
- Community Helper: As always, I invite parents into our classroom to share their careers with the class. We were able to Skype with a dad who is a firefighter. He and his crew met us, gave us a tour of the entire station, put on their gear, and talked about all of the tools on the fire truck. Again, this was a truly amazing eye-opening experience for not only our class, but also the father.
- Virtual Field Trip: We participated in a Virtual Field Trip and met “Molly the Fire Dog” through Skype in the Classroom.
- Guest Readers: We have had parents join us as guest readers by utilizing Skype. Parents who are unable to join us in the classroom by taking time off work can Skype us on their phones. This has been an amazing way to include parents who typically don’t attend school functions due to work. This also brightens the child’s day, and who doesn’t want to do that?
- Holiday’s Around the World: Many of us teachers participate in teaching how children around the world celebrate the holidays. We enhanced our learning of these countries by adding Skype in as well. After learning about their country (like years before), we were able to Skype classrooms from those countries, ask questions, answer questions, share holiday traditions, sing songs to each other and together. Reading a book is great, but adding real people who live in these countries completely connects the learning and opens their understanding.
- Messages: We have also utilized Skype in our classroom by getting to know other classrooms better, our own principal (that was a blast), and we have left video messages for others to brighten their day. As you can see, the possibilities are ENDLESS! I am so excited and eager to begin developing this tool with my students throughout the coming semester.
If you have Wi-Fi, a classroom computer with a camera (built in or USB connected) or even a document camera, then you too can join the movement and begin Skyping in your classroom. Don’t have a classroom computer or laptop with a camera? Use your iPhone or iPad in your classroom or go pitch the idea to your principal or media specialist. I promise they will be on board once they hear how this can transform your learning. You can search for other educators around the world to connect with, look for lessons already created that you can join in on, or better yet, participate in a virtual field trip. Free and easy.
Karina Baily is a Kindergarten teacher who is passionate about making education hands-on and meaningful. She accomplishes this through a use of interactive learning, games, and technology. She is a Microsoft Innovative Educator and Expert who loves to help others and enhance her teaching using Microsoft technology.