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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Finding Skype Connections for Your Classroom

During my ISTE Webinar, Dr. Z’s Creative Cookbook for Collaborative Communication, I demonstrated how Skype can be used to bring experts and other students into the classroom. At that time, Wesley Fryer (Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog and podcast) asked if I knew of any directories that were available to find people who were interested in sharing some time with students through Skype. Unfortunately, at that time I didn’t know of any such directories and was unable to help him.

Since then, Angela Maiers used Twitter to share the Skype in Schools wiki she had just found. This directory was developed by Dan Froelich based upon requests from teachers who participated in one of his sessions at the NCETC 2008 Conference. It is designed to provide a place where you can offer your services, post a “want ad” to find other classes to engage in a telecollaborative project with you or for you to share your experiences in collaboration.

Wesley Fryer recently addressed the Skype directory issue in a posting to his blog, Moving at the Speed of Creativity. He explores Skype in Schools as well as ePals and the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration. You should read this posting.

Since Wesley brought it up, I have been thinking about how you could contact special people and classes to introduce to your students. I would like to make two recommendations to you about how you might make these contacts:

Conference Programs – Most of you who are reading this posting probably attend at least 1 conference a year. If you don’t, you should. I often pay for conferences out of my own pocket but I learn a great deal and make many contacts. Next time you go to a conference, come home with the business cards of at least 5 people with whom you could work on collaborative projects or have them Skype-visit your classroom. Another way that you can connect with folks from conferences, is to review conference programs and contact the presenters who look interesting:
You might specifically want to contact the people whose sessions were podcasted – this indicates that they are interested in talking about their program.

Podcasts: Speaking of podcasts, you should review the Conference Connections podcast seriesApple Computer) involves interviews with presenters at conferences. They may be technology leaders or classroom teachers or ?? This may be a short 7-minute interview or it might be a recording of the whole presentation. Either way, it is a way to find out who is interested in sharing their ideas. You may find some of them who asked to be paid for a Skype-visit, but you can find someone else if their terms don't meet your resources.

for possible Skype-visitors. This series (sponsored by Global School Network: If you are interested in collaborating with students and experts outside of your classroom, then you MUST visit the Global School Network (GSN). The GSN has been engaging teachers and students in project learning exchanges for a quarter of a century.
In 2005, Teaching and Learning magazine identified GSN's predecessor, FredMail Network, as one of the top 15 “Breakthrough Products” since 1980.

GSN provides a Project Registry of over 3,000 telecollaborative projects. These projects may be from across the street or across the globe. They may last a week or be continuous on-going activities. If you want to join an existing project, there are over 3,000 of them. If you want to originate your own project, GSN has developed a time-tested format outline to assist you in making your project successful.
Telecollaboration is a deep subject that I will cover more thoroughly in a later post.

Wesley’s question about finding people and classes to work with your students is an important one. The opportunities are there and video conferencing can be used to make your curriculum more relevant to your students by further expanding their learning experiences into the “real world.”

What do you think? Do you use Skype in your classroom? How do you find people/classrooms for collaborating.
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2 comments:

  1. I have used skype in the classroom over the last 12 months and have found it a wonderfully empowering educational tool. We have used it to connect with teachers and students from many different countries. Most of my connections have been made via my membership of ning groups eg www.classroom20.com and through twitter. I wrote a recent post at http://murcha.wordpress.com/2008/12/31/where-to-find-schools-to-connect-with/ Your idea of getting contacts from conferences is a good one.

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  2. Murcha,

    Glad to hear that Skype has been so successful for you. I believe that it is a pivotal technology that can tear down the walls of our classrooms to permit experts and friends to join in our learning experiences.

    Z

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