Skype has opened up a whole new world – cyber and international. Skype is VOiP (Voice over internet protocol) which allows (to put very simply) two computers to ring each other like a telephone. Such calls are then free, except for the cost of the download time.
We have two sons who live in London and skype allows us to keep in constant contact with them, either by speaking to each other, text chatting or by videoconferencing. Living in a rural community, our neighbourhood telephone lines went out of order recently and as there is no mobile phone service in our area, we were able to put credit on our skype account and ring landline telephone numbers. This allowed us to have some communication with the outside world.
Skype is wonderful and has such huge potential in the educational field. It allows us to ring teachers in other countries, to share lesson plans and ideas and to work collaboratively on setting up wikis. However, the best use for our school has been that of videoconferencing with a school in Korea. Last week, we spent five days trialling the use and impact of skype. First, we had students from each country ask questions as they thought of them. The second time, we had already worked out the type of questions to ask eg what are your school hours, typical lunch foods, subjects studied, weather, where we live etc. By the fifth day we really used the technology.
One of our boys had found a blue tongued lizard. He brought it into our library and put it up against our small web camera. The Korean students could actually see his little blue tongue going in and out. The Korean students then took their camera to the window and we could see their beautiful snow clad school yard right down to a man sweeping the snow away with a wooden broom.
They had asked us about sports that we play. Having worked out the potential of the camera, a year 9 boy leapt from his seat to go and get a cricket bat, ball and stumps. Our library was converted into a cricket field with demonstrations of bowling and batting displayed in front of the web camera. It was then time to bring in a meat pie because no matter how we verbally described it, they could not grasp what it was. Vegemite soon followed and with that all sorts of questions and impromptu conversations flowed. Students forgot their shyness about their language skills and we started to really learn from each other. Korean students then showed us their wonderful mobile phones and features. Finally we compared uniforms but the bell went and we had to continue on to our other subject areas.
Surely this is powerful learning!!!! Students are activating their own education and wishing to research further and learn more about each other. As a result, short videos have been added to teachertube to show what Korean students have for lunch and a brief visual tour of the school. Our students made a canteen video to show them what we can purchase for lunch.
Grade 6 students interviewed a volunteer from the Penshurst volcano discovery centre. The interview was recorded with powergrammo and then used to insert into their podcast on the volunteers at the centre.
To use skpye, you need to
- download the software which is free,
- register with a user name and password. There are no telephone numbers, but instead a user name. You can search for other people’s usernames and add them as contacts. To ring, you simply highlight the appropriate name and press the green phone button.
- a web camera for videoconferencing.
- A desktop microphone gives better quality audio and headphones ensure some privacy.
Download powergramo and the conversation can be recorded. We have produced a podcast at (http://murch.podOmatic.com/rss2.xml or search for using skype – Australia and Korea students at www.podomatic.com), on our first skype session with Korea and Gail Casey, the English teacher in Korea captured it on video at their end. See it at http://www.teachertube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=d1cef75ffbe159c1f322) Still photos can also be taken whilst in the video conference. They are automatically saved in my pictures.
Skype is only on staff laptops as security could be a real issue. Our library has an interactive whiteboard for class presentations, but a datashow would suffice. There are other providers of VOiP. Conference calls can also be set up but the video will only work between two callers. Sound can be a problem at times and calls can tend to drop out but despite this overall it works wonders. So skype that call!!