A powerful tool in the Skype educational arsenal is group video calling which can easily be activated by the “Add People” button. Essentially, this allows up to ten individuals or classes from anywhere in the world to be on the screen at the same time.
Karl Purnell monitoring a class in Turkey with volunteer TWOL teacher, Annie Bartkowski.
At Teach The World Online, we’ve found this feature can solve the tricky but critical problem of teacher training and supervision of our Internet schools. After all, how do you sit in on a class and train a new volunteer teacher who is thousands of miles away?
One morning last year in Port Au Prince, Haiti where I was spending several days organizing new schools, I was astounded to see that one of our male teachers was not only disregarding the Lesson Plan, he was instructing the boys in the class how to pick up girls. It was only by accident that I saw what he was teaching and shuddered to think what else was happening in our classes around the world.
Then, Skype introduced group video calling which enables multi-screen presentations, and we quickly discovered how to solve our problem. By clicking on “Add people”, we can now sit in on classes to find out what is going on while also assisting our teachers who are new to the Internet medium of instruction.
One of our new teachers, Annie Bartkowski, recently asked a class of rather shy young students in Gazientep, Turkey, if anyone had any questions about the words “know” and “no”. I was on screen via Skype’s group video calling feature watching as silence prevailed. No one would volunteer a question and Annie was stuck. “Ask a specific question to one of the students,” I suggested to her in a low voice.
Annie then asked a boy in the front of the class if he could explain the usage of the two words which have such similar pronunciations. Immediately, he looked into the webcam and exclaimed, “I think you listen how words are used”.
“That’s right,” Annie replied.
A heated class discussion on other similar sounding words quickly ensued and by the end of the hour the students understood the details of the day’s lesson.
Monitoring a class held over Skype video needs to be carried out with tact and consideration so the teacher is not offended or embarrassed. If properly done, however, everyone, from students to teachers can be the beneficiaries of the “Add people” feature.