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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Using Skype in the Classroom (or just learning how to use it!)





I have been learning how to use skype in my classroom and have taught students how to use it as well. I had my first skypecast with my Computer Science class yesterday.

I haven't been this tired since I taught wikis last November! The students LOVE it and we're thinking of so many ways to use it in the classroom. I chronicled my adventures in a 13 minute video for you and have outlined how to set up skype and how I have my students set it up in the classroom. (I used moviemaker to produce, and CamStudio to do the screen shots.)

I also had selfish reasons for making the video. I know that a lot of other students and parents are going to ask me to help them and I can refer them to the video after I post it to the wiki!

I will share a lot more with you later, because I'm on my way to a big football game! (Go Georgia Tech!)

How I taught Skype to My Classes

Like everything, you must vigilantly supervise this. You must check student profiles to make sure they haven't put anything in them and you must "scare them" before embarking on Skype. here is how I introduced it:

1) I talked about what Skype is. (Internet telephone service that allows you to chat, share files, share hyperlinks, and conference call as well as see each other on video.)

2) I talked about the profiles, safety and security concerns on skype. (Watch the video.)
  • Do not put your real name under full name.
  • Never go in Skype Me mode.
  • Do not complete your profile.
  • No usernames with meanings that can be misconstrued.
  • Do not Skype Out (or call a landline phone) they get 5 free minutes and you don't want them calling home from the computer!

3) I had each user set up their service and make a Skype test call.

4) Then, they had to Add me as a user and call me. (This was required for a grade.)

5) THE TEACHER PHONE CALL

On the phone call with me, I showed them how to turn on video calling, use the avatar that came with our web cams to protect their identity and how to launch a side chat. I also looked at their profile information and told them if anything needed to be removed. After the call was almost over I said, "Good job, you have received a 100 for making your first successful Internet phone call." I now want you to start adding and calling your friends in the class and using what I taught you.

Each student was required to call me and add me to their contacts so I could see the details available publicly.

6) CLASS CONFERENCE CALL

After I spoke with each student, I addressed the class and told them I was about to call a large group of them and as soon as they answered to mute their microphone. To demonstrate how I conferenced, I put a copy of my laptop screen on the projector. Holding down the Ctrl key, I selected those I wanted to call and clicked the green call button.

When you conference, you can only have 10 people (you can call 9) at one time, so I had to split the class in half. On the conference call, I talked about muting their microphones. I pointed out how each person's name glowed as they spoke. I also talked about uses of the side chat and sent them all a file to see how that worked. I also sent them a hyperlink and allowed them to ask questions on the side chat.

You can get echoes on this activity particularly if they don't use mute and if their microphone is not close enough to their mouth.

We discussed skype safety and other issues about skype. I showed them how to leave a chat or a call. I also had them look at each other's profiles and note if there was anything revealing or misleading in them. I asked them to conference with each other. I hung up and called again for the other half of the class.

7) The Skypecast-


I was brave and did this for only one class on a topic. I've got to refine this. We the same trouble that I had when I began using skypecasts... making it so you could ask for the microphone! I've got to refine this.

I will probably do one with a class for the K12 Online conference. I will be doing a session on wikis and am excited about it!

If you want a high resolution version of the video it is located at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7610864481757219171&q=genre%3Aeducational+coolcatteacher.

Skype is a great tool and I'm going to be using it in my classroom. As with any Web 2.0 tool, you must be extremely vigilant. You may want to block and then unblock it when you want to use it in the classroom. (Yet another case for ad hoc filtration abilities, like I have.)

It is exhausting to teach because you are calling and observing and talking and engaging everything.

Beginners
The video is for beginners. I had the hardest time learning to use skype! I had several other fellow educators look down at me for "being so dumb" that I didn't know how! I had to struggle with it and appreciate those who've helped me, particularly the women of web 2.0. They didn't talk down to me once!

It is OK to be a beginner and now I can call my sister in Orlando for FREE!!! WHEEE!!

I'm having the students brainstorm how to use Skype and they've come up with some great ways. More later... now for football. Go Jackets!

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