In this fantastic session at AASL 2015, Matthew Winner and Eileen Gardner shared their secrets for utilizing Skype and other video conferencing tools to connect your students with the world. They collectively drew on their experience with many successful author visits, read-alouds, collaborations and more.
Why do we need Skype?
Skype and other video conferencing tools help to give our students voice as well as make global connections. “Our library is not just a room that students visit for forty minutes every week” Matthew shared. As we seek to prepare our students for 21st century careers, exposing them to global connections and collaborations from an early age will help our students to develop the skills they need. Connecting with other schools is also beneficial for us as professionals. We can often feel very isolated in our libraries; video conferencing and connecting with other librarians is a great way to be reminded that we are not alone.
Ways to Make Connections
Microsoft offers fantastic resources on their education page (formerly Skype in the Classroom). On this site, you can find a whole community of educators who are looking to connect with other schools. You can post your lesson idea – what you’d like to teach/have your students learn – and Skype will act as the matchmaker and help pair you up with others. Many speakers also have lessons up that you can sign up for, like talking to an expert about sea turtles or inviting Mrs. P. to have storytime with your students. Another great way to connect is through a Mystery Skype. In this lesson, you and the other teacher connect beforehand, but neither tells their students where the other class is from. The students prepare clues about where they live, and then the two classes compete to see who can guess where the other class came from first. Other excellent ways to get started with Skype are participating in global events such as International Dot Day (Sept 15) and World Read Aloud Day (February 24, 2016).
Make sure that you have an idea in mind of what is going to happen and prepare your students for this experience. The people we Skype with are our guests, we need to treat them as such. Be ready to steer the ship – sometimes you might have to back out of a call if your students aren’t ready for it yet. Have a general idea of the flow of the call – it can sometimes help to have questions and a script prepared. Plan for how and will students will participate – will they ask the other group questions? Will they share projects
Go to Skype.com and download the program to your computer (or get the app on your device). Create a Skype name (or Microsoft user ID) and password. Before your call, make sure you have your contact Skype’s username. Add them as a contact, and use direct messaging to communicate on the day of the call..
Great ideas for using Skype
- Author visits– Authors prize the opportunity to interact with students – it helps them get to know their audience – win-win!
- Share read-clouds with other teachers – A read-aloud Skype can take as little time as 15 min – doesn’t have to be a big commitment
- Mystery Skypes – Agree to Skype ahead of time, but don’t tell the kids who you’re Skyping with. Come up with clues about where you’re from; students have to piece the clues together to figure out where the other school is from – fantastic way to teach geographic awareness to your students
- Meeting professionals – Great way to connect your students with experts
- Skype across grade levels – High schoolers with elementary students, middle schoolers with college students, etc
- Celebrations – Great way to encourage your students, gives your students a way to share their accomplishments
Author: Diana Rendina
Diana Rendina, MLIS, is the media specialist at Tampa Preparatory, an independent 6-12 school. She was previously the media specialist at Stewart Middle Magnet School for seven years, where she founded their library makerspace. She is the creator of the blog RenovatedLearning.com & is also a monthly contributor to AASL Knowledge Quest. Diana is the winner of the 2016 ISTE Outstanding Young Educator Award, the 2015 ISTE Librarians Network Award, the 2015 AASL Frances Henne Award & the 2015 SLJ Build Something Bold Award. She is an international speaker on the Maker Movement and learning space design and has presented at conferences including AASL, FETC & ISTE. Diana co-authored Challenge-Based Learning in the School Library Makerspace and is the author of Reimagining Library Spaces: Transform Your Space on Any Budget.