Skype video 1

Skype software permits users to make high-quality audio "phone calls" over the Internet. Skype can be readily downloaded and installed on any computer. the slogan of Skype is "The whole world can talk for free". The subject of this slogan includes the stuents in your classroom!

A new set of skills needs to be taught and developed as there is now a virtual class. Staff and students need to learn and practise these skills.
  • Speaking to a web camera requires use of eye contact, stillness or little movement and voice inflexions or animated voices (avoid all montotones). The voice needs to take the place of body language.
  • Use of microphone is critical as the audio must be carried to the distant classroom(s).
  • Student confidence is crucial - students who are not confident will not be effective. (I have found it is often my quietest students and those who are not so competent in literacy and writing skills who will excel and perform well in the virtual classroom)
  • Appropriate placement of any object being displayed needs to be carefully considered for maximum effect eg when demonstrating a jar of vegemite - the angles need to be checked for maximum effectiveness.
  • Use the chat window feverishly for feedback, questions and variety of delivery.
  • Video should be used to keep the class interested and give some concept of a third party(ies).
  • Diction is another crucial element in successful use. You need clear, slow voices and short, simple sentences.
  • Need to be able to multitask eg speak, read chat, position camera, microphone, control and manage existing class and virtual class etc.

Management issues:

  • Keep the camera as still as possible. Better to bring the students and objects to the camera, rather than move the camera to them.
  • Seat students appropriately, so that they can be seen via the web camera.
  • Allocate roles to students eg chat window, web cam operator, microphone manager etc as this is a real multi tasking operation.
  • Ensure everything is organized right from the start - all materials required are on hand.
  • Determine the outcomes and plan the class accordingly. (We find it is good to get to know each other first - so a show and tell of school, classes, country, culture etc works well in the initial stages.)
  • Always test the equipment before starting the class and test prior teacher to teacher before the day. Practise with family, other teachers in school, country and then abroad.
  • Organisation, confidence and management are the key to success.
  • If the call drops out, come back in and switch the vidoe off for the group who is listening, then reverse and switch yours on when talking. If it continually drops out even with just one video on, switch off both videos and continue with chat. (not as exciting but it is still maintaining connections)

Class discipline:
This is an area of difficulty, as the teacher needs to be working at the front with the technology. Small groups are far more effective and manageable. If students are misbehaving, ensure that the camera does not pick that up. Cross culture teaching is interesting and so exciting but expectations differ. Have a management plan for discipline problems ready before commencing. Most students love this kind of work, but if sound quality, voice carry over, technical issues, software dropping in and out, it may become boring and students, restless.

Constraints:


  • Video option is lost once there are more than two participants in the conference.
  • Long distance and differing bandwidth connections are still unstable. Connections with Korea and Russia were not as stable as those with USA and Canada.
  • May be blocked in many educational institutions especially universities.
  • Skype does not like another program being open at the same time if that program also uses a video cam option. So close any other programs down, before using videoconferencing with skype, and restart the computer if necessary.

Concerns:

  • Security cannot be guaranteed although, operator has option of allowing a person to use your phone number of name, before being listed as a contact.
  • Risk of viruses over large organizations.
  • Bandwidth variations

Ideas for Classroom Use:

  • Book Discussions
  • Conversations with "experts"
  • Collaborate on projects
  • Parents can watch child's presentations
  • Include students who are home-bound
  • Debates
  • Practice foreign language
  • "Skype Reports" on field trips