Are folks in your IT department, your school administrative leaders, school board members, or others questioning the educational value of Skype and other videoconferencing solutions in the classroom? If so, I commend the following resources.
Neil Stephenson‘s post on ISTEconnects this past spring, “The Many Roles of Skype in the Classroom,” provides outstanding examples of how a classroom teacher HAS and IS using Skype to bring in guest speakers and extend classroom learning beyond traditional boundaries.
The Skype in Schools wiki is an educational directory for using Skype in the classroom which is also wonderful. I referenced this in my January 2009 post, “Skype Virtual Guest Speakers and Collaboration wiki.” I wrote the article “Skype in the Classroom” for TCEA’s TechEdge magazine back in 2005. My presentation wiki and resource list, “Videoconferencing Collaborations and Virtual Field Trips” includes multiple examples and suggestions for using Skype as well as other videoconferencing technologies in the classroom with students. I’ve shared professional development presentations with teachers using multiple videoconferencing tools and platforms to date, including Tandberg videoconferencing hardware, Skype, and Google Video. Of these options, the Tandberg equipment is definitely my favorite. Not all classrooms or classroom teachers have access to H.323 videoconferencing equipment, however. Desktop video solutions like Skype and Google Video can fill this void and address this need affordably and securely.
Just yesterday, thanks to James Deaton, I learned about Vidyo desktop videoconferencing which uses the same technologies as Google Video to deliver HD quality conferencing to the desktop. We’re continuing to see the evolution of videoconferencing technologies migrating from the iTV room to the laptop. Gone are the days you needed a dedicated room outfitted with $90,000 of equipment and infrastructure to conduct high quality videoconference interactions.
Two of my favorite examples of Skype’s use in the classroom are the video interviews “Skype in the Classroom” conducted by a student of Tammy Parks in Howe, Oklahoma, last year, as well as Brian Crosby’s video “Inclusion” linked from his 2008 K-12 Online Conference presentation, “Video-Conferencing It’s Easy, Free and Powerful.”
The wiki project “Unmasking the Digital Truth” may also be of interest and assistance when discussing technologies like Skype and videoconferencing in the classroom. My ISTEconnects post from April 2009, “Skype and Twitter going more mainstream” references uses of Skype now on mainstream media shows like Oprah and channels like CNN which are demonstrating the viability and quality of desktop videoconferencing solutions for larger audiences.
We need to respond to those who question the value and practicality of using videoconferencing in the classroom with SPECIFIC EXAMPLES, like those linked in this post, demonstrating the educational value of videoconferencing. The 1.5 minute video, “Howe High School KC3 2009 Project,” is yet another example of how videoconferencing can and DOES expand the walls of the classroom to transform learning opportunities for students, WHEN administrators and teachers/librarians “get it” and support its transformative use.
Our K-12 school networks need to resemble university networks in many ways, and today most do not. Many university networks are segmented for “official” administrative/academic traffic and student/public use. Concerned that students may bring a virus to school that could infect your Windows-based and virus-prone administrative computers? Switch to an Apple and Linux environment. Create separate VLANs on your network so student/public Internet access is segmented / separated from your administrative network. This can also permit you to throttle and manage available bandwidth for student users.
Are you hearing someone cry, “We don’t have enough bandwidth to support Skype” when you initiate this discussion? Point out that you’re not advocating for every user on your network to open simultaneous Skype video connections. Suggest that the use of skype in the classroom begin with access granted for teachers, and then monitor bandwidth utilization. Teachers can schedule Skype calls if bandwidth is severely restricted. If the school doesn’t have sufficient bandwidth now, it’s time to ramp it up. That is what E-Rate is for in the United States. Schools receive a MINIMUM 40% discount on connectivity. E-Rate was not created as a program and is not supported by taxpayers merely to help teachers submit grades and attendance online. Internet connectivity offers unprecedented opportunities for students to not only search for and consume multimedia content, but it also permits students as well as teachers to INTERACT and PUBLISH their ideas for and with a global audience. More options for dealing with bandwidth issues are included on the “Unmasking the Digital Truth” wiki.
If your school network is not being used regularly by students and teachers to virtually interact with other learners in other places and interactively publish information online, your network is underutilized at best, misused and a waste of taxpayer money at worst. As educators, we need to help our administrators understand that the benchmark of a highly successful and effective educational computing environment is not an IT Department which has locked everything down so tight that no one can do anything interactive, and the IT department faces ZERO trouble tickets each day because users can only check district email and surf the web. Hat tip to Sylvia Martinez for shaping my thinking about this. IT “success” in an educational context should look very different from what it looks like in a commercial business or hospital.
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On this day..
- Podcast408: Redefining the Science Classroom by Autumn Laidler - 2013
- Jonah Lehrer, Integrity and Quotation Fabrication: A Case Study in Writing Ethics - 2012
- Podcast355: Cool Tech Tools for the Classroom by Cheryl Freeman - 2010
- A New DNA of Pedagogy and Learning (YouTube video - Greg Whitby by Marco Torres) - 2010
- Great Lineup of Keynote Speakers for the 2010 K-12 Online Conference #k12online10 - 2010
- Another digital divide: Understanding Learning Community Power - 2009
- Webcasts tonight: Teachers are Talking and Storychasers - 2008
- Comments about Oklahoma education from Kirk Humphreys - 2008
- Comments about Oklahoma education by V. Burns Hargis, President of Oklahoma State Univ - 2008
- Notes from Dr. Pedro Noguera’s Keynote at BLC08: "Changing the Culture of Schools: Creating Conditions that Promote Student Achievement" - 2008