A few weeks before Christmas, I watched and blogged Dr. Z’s (Leigh Zeitz) webinar for ISTE on web 2.0 tools. Dr. Z mentioned Skype as a videoconferencing tool in the classroom, which can be used to bring in virtual guest speakers. I asked him during the webinar if he knew of any online directories for K-12 teachers to use wanting guest speakers, similar to the MERLOT Virtual Speaker’s Bureau for higher education. He said at the time he didn’t know of any, but would check. I blogged about using MERLOT to find virtual guest speakers back in September, and Rod Lucier started soliciting entries for a K-12 speaker’s directory on December 1st.

Today, via a tweeted reference to a recommendation from Angela Maiers, Dr. Z let me know about the Skype in Schools wiki.

Skype in Schools wiki

The wiki has a directory, a want-ads page, and an experiences page for educators to share brief stories about their virtual guest speaker experiences with Skype in the classroom to date.

Many thanks to Dr. Z and Angela for sharing this link, and Dan Froelich for creating it!

ePals continues to be one of the best resources I know of for finding other classroom teachers with whom to collaborate on different projects, and does have an advanced search option to restrict a search only to classrooms with audio/voice software access.

ePals Advanced Classroom Search

The Skype in Schools wiki is the first resource I’ve seen to date which is explicitly focused on serving as a virtual guest speaker networking site for K-12 educators. Do you know of other sites which have this focus?

The CILC’s Collaboration Center permits keyword searches for active collaborations.

Collaboration Center - Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration

A search with the keyword “skype” yields just six collaborations as of 1/3/2009, however. One is Tammy Parks’ “Journalism 2.0″ project, involving students in Howe, Oklahoma. The focus of the project is interviewing speakers virtually over H.323 video, Skype, or iChat:

Small, rural school Broadcast Journalism program in SE Oklahoma seeking interviews via distance. Mode of connectivity ranging from iChat, Skype, H.323, etc. Has a student(s) in your classroom received recognition for a class project? Do you know an interesting character? Does your town have a unique story? Tear down those four walls in your classroom and join my students for an interview session for our student-created newscast. We can only interview our Principal so many times, give Mr. C a break from the cameras and tell us YOUR stories! Still not convinced? Let’s discuss what Nat’l/State Standards this collaboration 2.0 project will meet for your lesson plans!

If you’re interested in having your students participate in a videoconference during the Jan-May 2009 school term, get in touch with Tammy!

I hope we’ll see more organizations step up and provide directories for virtual guest speakers, as more folks in the business world outside of education obtain webcams and microphones on their computers. What a great “service learning” opportunity for business men and women, and others in various career fields: Spending a few minutes connecting virtually to a classroom and sharing perceptions and ideas with students as a virtual guest speaker! If a large company or organization would setup, maintain and promote a virtual guest speaker directory like this, I think it would be WONDERFUL resource for classroom teachers seeking virtual connections for students!

The highlight of my presentation “Global Voices – Using Synchronous and Asynchronous VOIP Applications for Worldwide Classroom Collaborations” at the NCCE conference in Seattle last February was a short, impromptu videoconference with Dr. Scott McLeod, who happened to be in Mumbai, India, at the time:

Skype with Dr. Scott Mcleod

Hopefully, in the next 5 – 10 years, international videoconference connections like this will be common rather than rare occurrences in our classrooms.

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  • Cheryl Lykowski

    Wesley,
    I did my Master’s thesis on International Collaboration last year. My students collaborated all year on many levels with a classroom in Bucaramanga, Colombia. The learning that took place was unbelievable! This year we have invited several well-known children’s authors into our classroom via Skype. They spent time answering questions and talking about the writing process. What a great learning opportunity. I definitely believe that video conferencing is an invaluable tool that has opened many doors, not only for my students, but for myself as well.

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Cheryl:

    I remember you mentioning your thesis to me in our conversations from the fall! Is your thesis online? If so please share the link!

    How do you recommend teachers find others they can connect with via Skype or other videoconferencing programs? How did you get connected in the first place with the Colombia classroom? Is Discovery Education hosting a directory for DEN members wanting to collaborate with video?

  • http://aquaculturepda.edublogs.org/ Sue Waters

    Hi Wes, I’ve set up a page on the Edublogger called Skype Other Classes to help classrooms to connect with other classrooms. I’m updating the list constantly and it’s broken down into country and age of students.

    The list evolved from this post on Quick Start Tips for New Skype users when readers pointed out issues of finding classes to connect with.

  • http://blog.mrswan.net Jay

    Thank you so much for these suggestions. I have been searching something like the examples that you provided for a while. My hope is to show my students that both science and learning occurs outside of the four walls of our room.

  • http://drzreflects.blogspot.com Leigh Zeitz (Dr. Z)

    Wesley,

    Yes, the Skype directories are a great idea. While we typically consider “an expert” who might be able to tell us more about a specific topic, one of the greatest ways to use Skype is to collaborate with other classes. You mentioned ePals and the directories you listed are also designed to connect classrooms so that they can work together.

    Another resource is the Global School Network http://gsn.org
    Operating for almost a quarter of a century, they have been connecting classrooms around the world so that students can learn to work with colleagues who are across town, across the nation or around the world.

    Keep up the great coverage.

    Z

  • http://angelamaiers.com Angela Maiers

    Wes-
    Thank you for sharing this with your readers. I was so thrilled when I saw this. The potential is incredible! Skype is one of the first tools I share with teachers new to integrating technology in their classrooms. It gets them hooked immediately, and literally opens up a whole new world of learning and conversation! My head is spinning with possibilities!

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Angela: Please let me know if you hear of other virtual guest speaker directories that are being used by K-12 teachers. I agree, Skype is a great tool to introduce early. Since we are accustomed to F2F interactions, it is a tool teachers and students can start readily using. I think to be most effective, synchronous tools like Skype should be used with asynchronous digital storytelling tools like VoiceThread and web-posted videos. This is definitely an exciting area to work in… I am thrilled that decent quality videoconferencing has come to the desktop level, so we don’t have to buy $10K codecs for every videoconference. Certainly H.323 quality is great and needed for some contexts, but for virtual guest speakers I have found Skype and iChat work quite well.

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    I have added your EduBlogs skype directory link Sue, and the GSN project registry to the wiki page I maintain on videoconferencing and virtual field trips:

    Connection options for videoconferencing collaborations and virtual field trips

  • http://aquaculturepda.edublogs.org/ Sue Waters

    Thanks Wes – glad you found it useful. Just to clarify as you use the term Edublogs when describing the list. In this situation I sure you mean Edublogs as educational bloggers as opposed to people whose blogs are hosted by Edublogs.

    However it’s important for me to point out that any educator can be added to the list, they don’t have to have a blog with Edublogs or be an educational blogger. If fact there are quite a few on the list that aren’t edubloggers.

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  • http://www.SpeakerLeadsAndTips.com Mark Mikelat

    I manage a leads service for professional speakers at http://www.SpeakerLeadsAndTips.com.

    Every week I send out speaking opportunities to the professional speakers who are registered.

    I have tons of youth and education speakers who are registered. They might enjoy the guest speaker opportunities.

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  • http://skypeinschools.pbwiki.com Dan Froelich

    Just wanted to add a note that my fire has been lit once again. I’ve gotten back on the ball with my Skype in Schools wiki and am currently working with teachers in several school districts to create a change in policies regarding access to Skype as an educational tool. I am currently working on new pieces to add to the Skype wiki. Although I missed your Classroom 2.0 session on Saturday, I have watched the archive and am applying some of those comments to the current wiki and upcoming presentations. Thanks again!

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