Skype is an instructional tool that provides boundless opportunities for authentic teaching and learning. It allows us to explore beyond the four walls of our classrooms. As elementary teachers, we sometimes battle to hold our students’ short attention spans. Integrating Skype lessons brings the curriculum to life in ways never before possible. You know that special moment when you announce a class activity, and it’s greeted with claps, screams, and cheers? That’s Skype. It brings pure joy, wonder, and intrigue to your students.
Here’s a list of ten ways to utilize it in the elementary setting, followed by some logistical tips for success.
1) Take a Virtual Field Trip: Is there some place you’d like your class to visit, but can’t swing the funds or it’s just not geographically possible? Find a guide to ‘take’ you there by visiting a historical landmark, museum, zoo, etc.
2) Invite an Author: Set up a Skype session with an author you’ve been studying to discuss a book. Or, set one up with any author so that your students can learn about the steps of the writing process. No, real authors do NOT write one and done! Here’s an awesome list of Authors Who Skype With Classes and Book Clubs for Free.
3) Share a Project: Have your students been working on some kind of a special project? Give them the chance to show/share it with a distant class. This provides motivation and will help them develop confidence in the value of their work.
4) Put on a Performance: Is there a poem, song, skit, or reader’s theater script your students need to present? Give them the opportunity to perform to a unique audience via Skype!
5) Interview an Expert: Invite an expert to speak with your class on a current topic of study. Conduct a Q and A session. This is definitely a step up from the basic Google search!
6) Cultural Exchange: Learn about various cultures by connecting with a class from abroad. Check out the site ePals, which allows educators interested in Skyping or using other web-based tools to connect globally.
7) Meet Pen Pals: To encourage meaningful writing opportunities, write back and forth with pen pals throughout the year. Set up a culminating Skype chat so that students can finally meet their pen pals ‘face to face’.
8) Mystery Skype: If you register for Skype in the Classroom (instead of regular Skype), you can play Mystery Skype. Mystery Skype is an educational game that allows two classes to guess each other’s locations via questioning.
9) Including Students with Medical Issues: If a student has to miss school for an extended amount of time, Skype is the perfect way for the class to connect with their classmate. While not all class activities are workable on Skype, including the student in some key lessons will help prevent him/her from falling behind.
10) Share Travel Experiences: If you have a special trip to attend during the school year, have your substitute connect with you on Skype to touch base, allow you to do a mini-lesson, or show/share about your location.
1) Install Skype on your computer.
2) You’ll need a webcam, speakers, and microphone also.
3) Be sure you and your person both add each other as Skype contacts.
4) Run a test call to ensure everything is working properly.
5) Outline a plan and discuss logistics with your Skype contact.
6) Walk through expectations/procedures with your students beforehand.
*Remember, time is of the essence when working with little ones. Make sure all kinks are worked out prior to the chat to maximize engagement.
Here are a few photos of my class chatting with our pen pals/digital learning buddies from a nearby school. To launch our science unit on animals, we had each student bring in a stuffed animal and fact to show/share. Afterwards, I assigned her class to research and observe penguins on Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Live Web Cams, while she assigned my class to do the same for giraffes using Houston Zoo’s Live Web Cams. This generated excitement and motivated students for the next fact/opinion pen pal writing to come!