To celebrate World Read Aloud Day in March this year, Skype gave all educators the opportunity to receive 12 months of Group Video Calling if they signed up to Skype’s global education platform, Skype in the classroom. Since then, thousands of teachers have received and are using this fantastic teaching tool in their schools. If you’re an educator and haven’t applied for free Skype Group Video Calling, you can still apply on the Skype in the classroom website.
Group Video Calling gives Skype users the ability to video call with up to nine other accounts at the same time. This means that you can connect with more than one school at a time, opening up more opportunities for your students to have wonderful learning experiences with Skype.
As many teachers have discovered, one-to-one Skype video calls in their classroom have allowed students to meet NASA scientists, Yellowstone Park rangers, explore new countries through Mystery Skype calls, share global lunchboxes, meet athletes and even an Olympic torchbearer. A Skype Group Video Call brings a new dynamic to Skype lessons, offering more chances for global collaboration between a number of classrooms, and opening up new formats for lessons. Imagine how much fun it could be to compare the results of a science investigation with classes from around the world, or to start a regular book club with a group of classes.
Need some inspiration? Here are a few great Group Video Calling lesson ideas:
Group Video Calling around the world and in your school building: The Group Video Calling feature can be used for communicating with many schools from different countries simultaneously, but have you ever considered using it within your school? Invite a guest speaker to your school on Skype and let a few classes from your school participate in this event with Group Video Calling. It’s a great way for involving as many students as possible without having to find a room large enough to fit them all!
Group Video Calling with guest speakers: Guest speakers often have very busy schedules. A Skype Group Video call between a guest speaker – like author, Ingrid Law – and a number of classrooms allows these great speakers to reach many classes at once.
Sing songs together in 10 languages: Use Skype Group Video Calling to share songs in your native languages and then choose one song to sing together on Skype, like composer Eric Whitacre’s amazing Live Global Virtual Choir.
International Skype show and tell: Get schools from all continents to participate in a live show and tell. Share objects that are important for your community with schools from around the world. Show each other the weather out your window or the games you play during recess. This school from Uganda would love to give you an Eco-tour of their local area, for instance.
Here are a few technical tips and tricks for teachers on how to best Skype Group Video Calling:
Do a test call: When using the Skype Group Video Calling feature, it is very important to do a test call with the teachers you will be working with prior to your lesson in order to ensure that the actual Skype lesson is successful.
Get your students involved: You can also organize a mock Skype call a few days before your actual lesson to test your students’ knowledge and get them to become more comfortable with the concept of a Skype lesson. They probably have some of their own ideas about how they can collaborate with other schools and this can be a good chance to give them a try.
Plan together: A Skype Group Video Call will require some strong coordinated planning skills. Teachers working together to set up the Skype Group Video Call must plan the course of the conversation so that all classrooms benefit equally from the call. Roles should be divided amongst the students so that they pay close attention to all of the other participating classrooms. Roles can include being a presenter, inquirer, reporter, blogger, live tweeter or photographer.
Skype courtesy: Students should be reminded to wait for their turn to speak, to speak clearly and look into the webcam during the call. Soon they’ll be Skype lesson pros!
The Skype in the classroom team is always happy to help with enquiries from teachers about using our website or the Group Video Calling feature in their classroom. You can sign up for your 12 months of free Group Video Calling on the Skype in the classroom website. We love hearing from our teachers, so be sure to share your wonderful adventures with us either by email, Twitter or on Facebook.