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A week with Skype in the classroom at BETT 2012

Joe Dale, an Independent, modern foreign languages and technology consultant, brings us up to speed on his week at BETT (British Educational Training and Technology Show), a trade show that takes place every year in London and showcases international educational technology products, resources and best practices.

“It was fantastic to spend time at BETT to talk to the learning professionals at the forefront of education about Skype’s innovative tool that has all the teaching community talking: Skype in the classroom.

BETT is the world’s leading event for educational technology where education professionals can view, weigh up and subsequently purchase a comprehensive range of ICT (information, communications, and technology) products and services, so it was the perfect setting for me to showcase Skype in the classroom. I was situated on the Microsoft stand and was able to run through the practical ways Skype can be used in the classroom in order to engage learners of all ages and inspire them with the power Skype has to connect to the wider world. Drawing on practical examples taken from across the curriculum, I highlighted the innovative applications of the tool, which promote creativity, forges exciting new links and, in turn, facilitate anytime, anywhere learning.

First, I highlighted how useful Skype in the classroom can be in enabling teachers to maximize the learning potential of their students. For example, a secondary school teacher at Warrnambool College in Australia, Greg Twitt, used Skype to contact three experts about climate change, allowing them to talk to his pupils and let them ask questions via a video call. Interestingly, one of the experts, Professor David Karoly, was a Nobel Prize winner.

In terms of the community spirit that Skype in the classroom evokes in teachers and pupils alike, we spoke to Suzi Bewell, a PGCE MFL course leader at York University, who used Skype as part of her primary outreach work with a school in France. Pupils on both sides of the channel found the experience very engaging and enjoyed meeting their virtual friends. During one Skype call, the French partner school was celebrating one of their pupils’ birthdays and presented him with a chocolate birthday cake. The English pupils felt so connected that they thought they would be receiving a piece too, but suddenly realized they were actually in different countries and would therefore not be sharing the treat in the same room!

Finally, demonstrating the truly global nature of the tool, Jen Deyenburg had a sleepover with her class of 24 pupils, 5 volunteer parents and a student teacher at Dorothy Dalgliesh Elementary School in Canada. The pupils spoke on Skype with eight different classes throughout the night, including classes in Canada, Thailand, Australia, Scotland and the US. To extend the activity even further, she was able to use online map tools to show where her class ‘visited’ during the night. We were lucky enough to speak to Jen live via Skype at the BETT show, where she was able to tell the audience more about her experiences of using Skype in the classroom.”

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Read more from Joe on his blog, Integrating ICT into the MFL classroom, and follow him on Twitter, @joedale.

Skype in the classroom, a global community for teachers, currently has over 20,000 teachers and nearly 1500 current projects. Register for free at education.skype.com. You can also follow Skype in the classroom on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook.

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