Sunday, November 18, 2012

Skype in the classroom? Just get them Gmail accounts.

Skype’s various modes of synchronous communication provide collaborative versatility. Audio, visual, and messaging capabilities allow individuals or groups to communicate and minimizes technology disruptions. While visual communication via webcam is the primary benefit to the tool, technology breakdowns occur without warning and can disrupt this method. A lack of webcams, internet speed, and mysterious tech glitches can stifle the speed of webcams. To experiment with this tool, I Skyped with a curriculum partner in another school within my district. While we are lucky enough to have the hardware to make video chat an option, unfortunately my building’s wifi was slower, creating significant lags in our conversation. Thankfully, the text messaging aspect of the site allowed us to laugh at this frustration together. 

Potential uses for Skype in my 7th grade language arts classroom are project oriented. Soon my students will enter into a social justice thematic unit in which we read historical fiction and discuss issues of equality. Debates are woven in as a learning platform. I plan to arrange students to communicate with professionals from the region of the globe their books takes place. Further, I am working with that curriculum partner to have our classes debate each other. 

Skype provides an accessible platform for these forms of communication. However, if Gmail accounts could be created for those participating, I see Google Drive as a significant upgrade. Skype does have file sharing amongst its capabilities, but the ability to edit and publish is greater with Drive. Further, text and video chat are available through Gmail. Skype specializes in a few services, focusing on producing high quality video chats, while platforms like Google aim to integrate many services at a comparable level of quality. However, I do see a greater opportunity for searching out unknown collaborators with Skype. 

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