Hat tip to Silvia Tolisano for her tweet and post, “Skype in the News,” which highlighted Shanthi Venkataraman’s recent article for the Columbia News Service, “Skype Gives Students Window On The World.” Shanthi is a student from Columbia University, Graduate School of Journalism. I am delighted the use of Skype by Deer Creek Public Schools in Oklahoma is mentioned in the article, which I wrote about in September 2009 and was highlighted by The Daily Oklahoman / NewsOK. (Sadly that article is now offline without a paid subscription to NewsOK.)

I spoke with Shanthi on the phone for about 40 minutes last Wednesday as she researched this article. As always when you are interviewed for a news article, it’s always interesting to see which bits of a conversation were quoted and included. Shanthi did a great job with this piece, highlighting classroom integration projects by Silvia Tolisano (Around the World With 80 Schools) as well as Chrissy Hellyer. I was quoted at the end of the article:

Most schools districts in the U.S. have Internet connections that can handle a Skype videoconference. However, a system with a high-speed Internet connection that runs Skype all day could become a “supernode,” which means it could end up handling voice calls other than those originating from and to the local user. So tech departments tend to be wary of Skype’s bandwidth usage.

The other concern that is universal to all peer-to-peer applications is security breaches that could happen through file transfers. Then there are fears that strangers could contact students over Skype and other such applications.

Wesley Fryer, a digital learning consultant and a former director of education advocacy for AT&T, says that these issues can be managed and that undue fear is preventing students from accessing the experience of collaborative learning. According to Fryer, a smartly managed network could overcome a lot of these issues. “It is possible to control how much bandwidth is used. You could set limits on the amount of bandwidth used in a videoconference,” says Fryer, who suggests logging out of Skype when it is not in use. “You can also limit access to only teachers or to only certain places.”

Fryer points to school systems like Deer Creek in Edmond, Okla., that have learned to use Skype effectively by working around these issues. Toni Jones, in charge of instructional technology at the school, says her classes Skype with partner schools at arranged times and know that they are speaking to legitimate schools. According to Jones, schools that block such sites are “just not in the 21st century learning environment.” She believes that the technology department is often not able to understand the needs of the teachers, as technicians tend to come from backgrounds outside of education.

“The technology department looks at things differently from teachers. You need to get the superintendent on board,” says Fryer. “We want to be creative. But that takes leadership.”

You bet it takes GOOD LEADERSHIP to GET CREATIVE, in schools as well as our communities more generally. That’s why I am so pleased to support our Oklahoma Creativity Project.

Learn more about “Around the World With 80 Schools” by viewing the following video, and checking out Sylvia’s K12Online09 presentation, “Around the World with Skype.”

Nice work Shanthi! Thanks so much for highlighting these innovative educators and learners in your article!

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4 Responses to It takes leadership to get creative in schools and support the use of Skype

  1. It really does take leadership to get creative in schools and support the use of Skype and other non-traditional ways to integrate technology into the classroom. Great article!

  2. […] Fryer says It takes leadership to get creative in schools and support the use of Skype. Wes addresses  the technology (bandwidth and security) part of that equation in his post. I am […]

  3. RustyBadger says:

    You hit it on the head there, Wes- and that’s the fundamental disconnect between EdTech and InfoTech. Techs (most of us, anyhow) don’t even begin to understand the difference that those terms represent, but there is very little initiative on the part of administration to address the problem. So teachers and techies spend a lot of time fighting over things that could be solved or prevented with a bit of pro-d. It’s interesting that districts will often spend a lot to provide pro-d for teachers around technology, but nobody ever considers giving the techs pro-d around pedagogy or classroom management. It took me a long time (almost three years) to really grasp the concept myself (I’m a tech), and it was only through the time I spent in the classrooms working with teachers and students that I really came to see how “EdTech” means something completely different from “InfoTech”, and that the IT departments in schools invariably don’t get it.

  4. […] and digital citizenship are increasingly important aspects of being successful in school and out. If we don’t teach them, who will? addthis_url = […]

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