Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Using Skype to Connect Students to Experts

 Using Skype to Connect students to experts around the world.

websitesuggestionsFor two years, I was the Technology Specialist at a scWebsites for the Elementary School Classroomhool in Georgia. During that time, I amassed a large collection of websites that I use with my students. You can download my E-Book of Websites for the Elementary Classroom for free from Teachers Pay Teachers or Smashwords, or, you can check back here each week for the website suggestion.

Skype is a powerful website.  It allows me to see and hear my family in the United States while I am across the ocean in Morocco.  It allows me to have a Georgia phone number that rings to my computer.  However, Skype is even more powerful when you think of the possibilities for the classroom.  Skype allows teachers to bring a wide range of experts into your classroom.  It also allows you to connect your class with other classes around the world.  Here are some ways I have used Skype in the classroom.

image Connect to Experts:  No matter what you are studying, there are all manner of experts out there to talk to in order to enhance what you are studying.  We invited food blogger, MarocMamma, to Skype with our class. She will be joining us in a few weeks to talk to them about the process of writing professionally, how she still needs to go through the writing process (brainstorming, drafting, editing and revising) and how she connects with others through her blog.

Photo: As part of their unit on rocks ISM students here in Casablanca learned about colorful and shiny semi-precious stones from a jewelry maker in England by interacting live via Skype.Last year, another teacher at my school was studying rocks and minerals.  Her class spoke with her sister who makes jewelry.  Find all of the details in this old post -   ISM Spotlight–Volcanoes, Rock Museums & Precious Stones

The great thing with connecting with “experts” is that we often know many experts on different topics and can use those connections to bring a new perspective to our classroom.  Great teachers have been bringing these experts into the classrooms for a long time.  However, with the use of Skype, you can draw from a much larger pool of experts.  Here are some possible experts you could bring into your class via Skype:

Literacy: authors, bloggers, librarians, reporters, speakers of other languages, advertising professionals etc.

Math:  chefs, carpenters, interior designers, architects, engineers, computer programmers etc.

Science:  doctors, college professors, scientists, amateur astronomers, environmental activists etc.

Social Studies: bankers, lawyers, politicians, police officers, historical enthusiasts, people who live in another state or country, etc.

Remember that anyone who has a strong interest or hobby can be deemed an “expert” if they are willing to talk to your class.  Also remember that it never hurts to ask – you’d be surprise who will be willing to help you out if you just ask!

photo 1-4View Collections:  Thanks to the video feature of Skype, we can also view the collections of others using this amazing website.  Last week, my class viewed the money collection of a friend of our director on a Skype call.  He spoke with them about different types of currency, but he also showed them money made out of animal hides, tea and metal. 

What collections could make a difference in your classroom?  A rock collection? A shell collection? A fossil collection?  A car collection?  What about a look at old auto parts during a machines unit?  Or a look at different kitchen gadgets during a tools unit?  How about a look at animal furs during an animal adaptations unit?  Or a look at a large book or record collection to enhance your literacy lessons?

Connect to Other Classes:  Adults are not the only people your class can connect with using Skype.  How about connecting with another class?  During my first year in Morocco, my class talked to another class in Maine, USA who was studying Morocco.  The students asked each other questions and even taught each other songs.  When I did this, I didn’t have a projector and did the Skype chat with just my one laptop and 20 kids.  Here is a link to a full blog post on this activity – Skype Pen Pals.

 Use Skype in the classroom to help students connect to students in other countries.


Who could you connect to?  Could you connect with a classroom of students on a Native American children during your Native American unit?  How about a real “look” at those students you have been penpals with?  Or how about pairing with another teacher who is reading the same book as your class and doing a shared reading or a series of book talks with that class?


How have you used Skype in your class?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources