Skype is the most popular teleconferencing platform in the world. Developed by (allegedly) former online media pirates, Skype is seen as an alternative to long distance calling, providing free voice and video communication over the internet from anywhere in the world. In the past few years it has exploded, to the point that I spent last Christmas at my in-laws as they received video call after video call from family in Trinidad, Florida, and England.
Skype is behind most of the live news broadcasts that you see from remote areas of the world. Anyone with an iPod and an Internet connection can connect in real time to anyone else.
What are the educational advantages to Skype? How about connecting with a teacher in Peru during a unit on South America? Have your students talk—really talk—to their students. Have your class and their class do a math lesson together. Have wireless? Take the other class for a field trip around the school. While we are the subject of field trips, why not have ‘embedded reporters’ in your class report to another grade, live from their field trip?
How do you connect to these schools? Since becoming more mainstream, Skype has set up an education portal designed to allow teachers to connect with one another and collaborate using teleconferencing. Just make sure to clear it with your district’s tech support first; Skype is blocked by most filters, and modifications might need to be made for teacher use.