Make space for Skype in your classroom

Sridivya Mukpalkar

For netizens, Skype is ubiquitous. Until recently, I used Skype for making calls to cousins and friends in distant lands as it is super-easy to use and free too. A little later I started using it to video-conference with colleagues in different cities and also to call mobiles and land line numbers. I’ve now found a new way to use Skype to connect with teachers and teaching professionals all over the world. Yes! Skype has started a new feature, ‘Skype in Classroom’ to help teachers and students all over the world to connect with each other.

Let me tell you how this cool service works. All you have to do is go to http://education.skype.com/ to register with your Skype id and create your own profile. In your profile, don’t forget to mention the subjects you teach, your interests and demographics. There are two ways to make best use of Skype in Classroom. One, you can look at the 1299 projects listed on the site and connect with teachers who have created these projects to get their perspectives or clear doubts or even to suggest different ways to tackle the project. Two, you can look at the member directory, which has 19,671 members (and growing), make note of subjects they teach and their interests and partner with them. Once you’ve zeroed in on a project or a teacher, you can connect with them through Skype and get going.

I know what your next question will be, “So how does this help?” In a lot of ways, for starters, if your next history class is on the French Revolution and you want to add a dash of zing to the class, you can try this; connect with a history teacher from France and get her to talk to your students about how the revolution changed France. Isn’t that fun! There is also a huge repository of links, resources and ideas that teachers can use. You can also create your own projects and invite other members to help you develop it.

There is one hitch though. Using Skype in classroom in your class is a long process. Finding a partner for the project, planning and also matching time zones could take a long time. But the best feature of Skype in Classroom is the ease with which we can connect with teachers all over the world. A few years ago, this was unimaginable, only the remit of rich, corporate schools. The site is interactive, easy to navigate and even works in classrooms with low bandwidth. Happy surfing!