Monday, March 29, 2010

March Madness: Why Skype?

Skype is an internet telephone service that allows people around the country and around the world to enjoy free video calls. For students, that means free access to resources and to fellow students worldwide. For teachers and administrators districtwide, that means video conferencing in real time without having to leave their schools.

"I was somewhat familar with Skype because we use it for my own children to call and see their grandparents in Florida," said Holly Hill teacher Heather Copley. "But I never thought about using it in the classroom until the Ohio eTech Skype session. Now I'm brainstorming how to use it!"

Copley shared about her recent Ohio eTech conference workshop on Skyping:

"The focus of this session was using webcams to connect to classrooms. By having a webcam and downloading the free Skype software, you can call anyone else on Skype, for free, throughout the world! Many ideas were presented on how to use Skype. Classrooms can connect to each other to do book talks, read to each other, or form online e-pals. The presenter had some of her students connect to a preschool room and read books to the younger children. Two classrooms connected students from Japan (one who was also fluent in English) to help with the language barrier for the student who only knew Japanese. The school also used it to connect the middle school band to the upper elementary school students to do an online field trip."

Kindergarten teachers Lori Van Eman and Joe Stahl use Skype to connect their classes to share and learn with one another. During the Winter Olympics they Skyped with classes in Kansas, California, and Canada.

Interested in connecting with other Skyping classes? Learn about Around the World with 80 Schools to open the walls of your classroom...for free!

Amelia's Kinder-Skypers were featured in the Cincinnati Enquirer in February:

By Cindy Kranz • February 26, 2010

AMELIA - When Lori Van Eman’s kindergartners first learned that Olympic snowboarder and gold medalist Shaun White is nicknamed “The Flying Tomato,” they giggled and laughed.

The Amelia Elementary kindergartners are still giggling about the reference to White’s red hair.

It’s the favorite fun fact they’ve learned about the 2010 Olympic Winter Games – and they learned it while Skyping with other kindergartners in White’s home state of California.

Since the Vancouver Olympics began nearly three weeks ago, the Amelia kindergartners have been Skyping – seeing and hearing each other over the Internet – with The Village School in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and Haultain Community School in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

They also Skype daily with Joe Stahl’s kindergarten class at Withamsville-Tobasco Elementary and have Skyped several times with Mary Lou Van Eman’s third-grade class at Mercer Elementary in Anderson Township. She’s Van Eman’s mother.

“We want to see the learning at home connect to the learning at school,” Van Eman said. “It’s letting them know they can go home and Skype anybody you want. It’s forming that friendship and that eagerness to learn what others are doing, what others are seeing.”

The kindergartners have been Skyping once a week with the California and Canadian schools since the Olympics began two weeks ago. Sessions last around 8 minutes, which is about their maximum attention span, Van Eman said. During that time, they exchange information about athletes and events, plus track medals won by the United States.

On Thursday, Van Eman’s students Skyped with their California friends. The first time Van Eman’s students Skyped with the California school, they couldn’t understand why they were wearing shorts.

“The kids could not get over that the climate was different there,” she said.

To give their new friends a taste of snow, Van Eman’s class made a video outside and threw snowballs at the camera.

The students also keep Olympic journals and graphs of the number of gold, silver and bronze medals won by the United States, which allows Van Eman to test their language and math skills.

Van Eman writes a classroom blog, which is now populated with photos and information about the students’ Olympics lessons.

After the Olympics, she and her students have an appointment to Skype with Kelli Stack of Brooklyn Heights, Ohio, a member of the silver medal-winning women’s ice hockey team.

Although the Olympics end Sunday, Van Eman’s class will continue Skyping with their new California friends. Plans are to become reading buddies with the children.

A year ago, Van Eman didn’t have any of the resources that she does now.

“I can honestly say that it has changed my students’ learning 100 percent,” Van Eman said. “There is little need for redirection when we are working with the SMART board technology or Skyping because the students know that if anything is going to happen it is going to be happening on our board.”

“Their eyes are always glued to see what is coming next.”
This is post 21 out of 23 in our March Madness series.


  1. Currently, I use Skype to communicate with my students and parents before and after school.
    Here are some of the comments from parents/students who I have Skyped with. Each session lasted less than 5 minutes but made a lasting impression on my students.

    Heather D wrote...
    The kids and I had such a fun time talking with you today. Trevor thought it was great that he could share a little piece of school with his siblings!

    Naomi Blackburn wrote...
    Gunnar had a great time! It was such a good idea to do this Ms. Van Eman! I'm sure glad he is in your class! ;)

  2. Such an innovative way to be connected with your students and families. Keep up the great work, Lori! M.E.

  3. As an author and educator who now connects with children via Skype to share my message, I think Skype is so exciting. I believe it is such an incredible way for children to learn, schools to work within tight budgets, authors to be able to reach out and connect with their audience, and just a win-win for all involved. I love seeing all the ways in which Skype is helping our children learn and grow!

    Barbara Techel

  4. Barbara, As "mom" of Max, the three-legged cat, I'm touched to learn about Frankie, the Walk 'N Roll dog...such an inspirational story. Thanks for commenting and for sharing the links. M.E.