Guest Post: Skype's Potential in the Education Space
Sometimes getting technology adoption to happen more quickly in education can be a frustrating experience. When you factor in an institutional resistance to change with the fact that some school systems are struggling to find funding for things like building maintenance, it's understandable. The exciting thing about Skype for school systems is that it doesn't present the higher costs associated with some other technologies. Skype's recent move into the education arena may prove a game-changer for educators and students as well.
Even though Skype's been around for so long that we've really begun to take it for granted, it has the potential to effect change in classrooms. Most of us likely use it in personal and professional contexts all the time. But Skype never really found a foothold in public education. Skype has been extremely effective in online education but that never translated into a presence in a traditional classroom setting. Teachers always used it informally, but really only as an instant messaging platform. That may be about to change dramatically with the new "Skype in the Classroom" initiative.
What Skype Integration Means for Teachers
"Skype in the Classroom" left beta testing in March with about 4,000 teachers signed up. That's fairly respectable, but in the meantime that number has swollen to more than 16,000 teachers. That's not just exciting news for Skype; it also spells good news for teachers and students alike. And the interesting phenomenon is watching how teachers are tending to use it in its initial stages. As I suspected, Skype's potential for supercharging collaborative efforts is how teachers must intuitively view it as well. They're using it to share really effective lesson plans and post projects primarily.
When I taught high school English, I sometimes felt constrained by the classroom. Out of necessity, I was confined to the classroom for large segments of the day and that can impact the ability to collaborate. Exchanging ideas in the teacher's lounge about effective lesson plans just isn't the same as real time collaboration. That seems to be the way many teachers are using Skype now; exchanging tips about being more effective and finding what works without waiting for another education conference.
How Skype May Benefit Students
Everything Skype does to help teachers become more effective in the classroom is going to benefit students. But in addition to those trickle-down things like better lesson plans, Skype offers some real potential for positive student interactions that just haven't been possible previously. The video conferencing ability that Skype offers may have more applications than initially meet the eye. Students in foreign language classes may be able to incorporate Skype into practicing foreign language skills with native speakers in classrooms separated by enormous geographic boundaries. The impact this could have on foreign language acquisition could be very interesting to examine. Introducing a conversational dimension as well as the social element to language learning could be a useful complement to the dull litany of verb conjugation and repetitive workbook exercises. And grade school pen pal projects could take on a whole new level of immediacy and excitement via Skype video chat in a classroom. Because of the rapid rate at which teachers are signing on to the "Skype in the Classroom" program and the lack of high costs, Skype may have a good chance of catching on quickly.
About the Author
Jesse Langley lives near Chicago. He divides his time among work, writing and family life. He has a keen interest in blogging and social media. He also writes for www.professionalintern.com.
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