Friday, November 30, 2012

Videoconferencing in the Classroom

This morning an article from Time Magazine, How Teachers Use Skype in the Classroom,  popped into my Facebook feed.  As I read the description of teachers stranded in New York due to Hurricane Sandy still virtually teaching their students in Texas and elementary students studying geography by Skyping with students in different parts fo the world I was reminded of a powerful and engaging power of video conference.

Earlier this year 6th grade Leading Edge students had the opportunity to learn about archeology from an expert.  As Dr. Robert Cargill from the University of Iowa described what it was like to discover historical objects and interpret their uses you could hear a pin drop in the room.  All 90+ kids were together in one classroom, but through the power of Skype they were each glued to the lesson being taught by this real life Indiana Jones.

Just a few years ago most schools did not have the hardware or bandwidth to support effective video conferences, however today schools like Natomas Charter School have all of the tools in place.  You can easily set up video conferences in your classroom through one of two tools - Skype or Google Hangouts.  All you need is an account, and Internet connection (hardwired is better than wireless for this task), and a web camera which all of our iMacs and Macbooks have built right in.

Your next challenge is just to find a guest speaker or collaborative classroom that ties in with one of your upcoming units.  From my own classroom experience I have found friends and family, as well as requests posted to Facebook and Twitter to be quite helpful for finding these individuals.  However, as is mentioned in the Time article Skype actually has an entire website dedicated to using Skype in the Classroom.  Through their website and search function at the top of the page you can easily connect with experts and entire classrooms for collaborative projects.  This video does a nice job demonstrating one way Skype can be used with your students.  However, you can also connect with scientists at NASA and chat with authors through Penguin Books.

Take a moment to check out both the Time article and Skype in the Classroom.  They are worth the read.


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