Skype, in my opinion, is underutilized in the classroom. Many teachers see it as a nuisance because students only use it for socializing. However, Skype can be a powerful tool if managed properly. Skype has a website devoted to educators at http://education.skype.com/
Here are some features of Skype in the classroom:
1. You can “Mystery Skype” another school in the world. This is really popular because students have questions to guess where the school is located and leads to some awesome inquiry about those countries.
2. You can connect with another school doing similar lessons as your own class and get a new perspective on issues. My 6th grade class last year Skyped with a school from India, and it was really great getting new information first hand from another country.
3. You can Skype authors, national park workers, activists, humanitarians, etc. Some of these people would not have been able to come to the school, but they are now available to chat with.
4. You can take virtual field trips of places set up by other educators or students.
Skype can be a bit tough to do sometimes because of bad Internet connections, and if you are on one computer, how do all students stay involved in meaningful conversation?
1. When I was Skyping another school, the teacher gave students specific times to speak in the conversation. They had questions already developed. When they received their answers, they sat down at their table and continued the work they were doing. In the end, all of the students waved good bye, but mostly it was an individual experience for them.
2. Bad Internet can happen anywhere so it is important to have an alternative plan.
3. Teachers need to sign up with Skype in the classroom, and then e-mail other teachers about collaboration. This can take a little bit of time in terms of setting up a meeting, but it is worth it when it is all said and done.
Other ways of using Skype:
1. News Report where students have to interview someone from somewhere else. It could just be from the Science room down the hall.
2. Relating to teenage characters in a book where their friends are on the other side of the world, and they create a conversation using quotes from the book.
3. Doing a remote experiment where students need to work together without meeting each other.