By Steve McCrea Skype: SteveEnglishTeacher
Knowing how to use Skype is a skill that will grow in importance. This list of tips will help teachers use the program skillfully in the classroom.
1. Learn to use Skype by using it. Yes, you can take tutorials. Yes, you can get an account name and let your students do the talking to other students. But the way that opened the magic of “skype in the classroom” to me was using it regularly.
2. Leave the Skype bar “Available.” Who knows who will contact us when we leave the account “available for contact”?
3. I set my Skype account to “open” (not private) so that anyone who has a Skype account can find me.
4. Turn the volume UP. I've missed dozens of opportunities to connect with students and teachers because I forgot to turn up the volume. (One of the annoying parts of using Zamzar.com is the audio ads that come with a message that “your file is ready for downloading.” I usually want the computer to be quiet, so I turn down the volume when I use zamzar.com... but then I forget to turn it up again when I'm in the classroom.)
5. Allow Skype users to email your mobile phone with a short reminder: “Hey, are you there? We had an appointment for a skype talk at 9:30 am your time – Jair.” I don't know why I forget to turn up the volume. Jair in Florianopolis went through a a lot of effort to obtain permission to move his class into a classroom with a projection screen and intenret access – and then I forgot to bring my compuer to class. Another time I forgot to turn up the volume, so I didn't hear the “ping” reminder that tells the skype user that someone is trying to connect.
6. I include my email address in the “greeting” that appears on the message. This encourages people who can't reach me by Skype to ask their questions by email.
7. Sometimes it's better to make a call WITHOUT the video on. Leave the video OFF for better sound quality (at least it appears to be better quality when the video is off). In May 2008 the number of skype users at 10 am New york Time was about 54 million. In May 2009 the number of skype users was about 8 million, and a year later, the number was closer to 22 million.
8. Expect some connections to be broken or interrupted or lower quality.
9. Do you have a backup plan? Some people use Instant Messenger with Yahoo or Microsoft (MSN). It helps if you have a variety of ways to connect.
10. Learn how to send a file over Skype. Some countries don't have easy access to youtube videos. Skype users can send video files and help other students see educational parts of youtube.
11. Encourage your students who use SKYPE to type while they talk. It is a way of clarifying pronunciation and ensuring that information is clearly transferred. I was able to monitor a conversation by walking between pairs of students doing independent work in the classroom – and the pair that was on a skype call with my student Gongfu in China had the following interaction:
Example: The call started around 10 am in Florida, twelve hours behind Gongfu in Shandong province. Teachers can read the notes that I've added in italics. Students can learn how to make their communications clearer by typing key words or sentences. When talking to people who live in countries where it is difficult to use Facebook or Youtube, ask if it is okay to send a video over skype.
gongfu: hi .are you there? are you in your class?
Steve: hi we are ready to talk
Steve: can i send you a file?
Steve posted file SANY0021.MP4 to members of this chat
I introduced Gongfu to my students Rashad and Andreas. They talked a bit and then started to type some of the words.
What time is it? (asked Andreas)
Steve: It is 10 a.m. here
What is your name?
gongfu: Qi Jian li
Steve: How old are you?
Steve: Have you been to Paris before?
The student over in Florida wrote this sentence (which the teacher can follow up with a grammar review)
Steve: I was graduate in 2009
Andreas described himself as a construction worker and Gongfu had a problem with spelling “Builder”
gongfu: marking plan
Steve: a man who makes buildings
Rashad asked, “What time is it?”
Then there was a discussion of songs
Steve: an apple
gongfu: big apple
gongfu: new york?
gongfu: rock music
gongfu: hip pop?
gongfu: do you like his songs?
Steve: ac dc
Steve: yes i do
What is your skype address?
The students started talking about pronunciation
gongfu: a e i o u long and short
gongfu: short oo long oo
gongfu: SHORT OO
gongfu: SHORT OO SOUND
gongfu: [SHORT OO]
gongfu: I find the sound short oo sound is qutie similar with the schwa sound
The teacher dropped in to add the following words that have the [oo] sound
Steve: foot book good about a in about
We wanted to continue the connection because the large video file was still being transferred (100 kb per minute, 64 MB, so it took 50 minutes)
gongfu: leave the window open
Steve: i will leave the window open
gongfu: i enjoy your video very much.so nice. steve,i will go to bed.tomorrow i will write to you . and can you tell me your free time.
The skype call took about 40 minutes, plus the extra time to complete the transfer of the video. The students (Andreas and Rashad) spent this time creating questions for the student in China.
If you have suggestions and recommendations, please contact Steve at SteveEnglishTeacher on Skype or at FreeEnglishLessons@gmail.com.