Tuesday, January 28, 2014

New Tips for Using Skype in your Classroom - Technology and Testing

Previously, I've written about some simple rules to keep in mind when using Skype in your classroom, particularly the first time.
Since that post, I can only reiterate the importance of testing your technology experience beforehand. If your intended speaker can't help you test, find someone who will. It usually takes less than five minutes. Even if you are an experienced Skyper, a quick test can alleviate a lot of classroom problems. A technology delay restricts your visitor's ability to interact with the students, raises your stress level, and is an open door for students to act out. I've seen some crazy things happening behind a teacher who is fiddling with a laptop!

Test your full technology solution!
One common mistake I see often is a teacher testing their Skype on a different computer or not hooking up the room for projection and sound. If you can afford the few minutes, try it all out: Room speakers, microphone, projector or Smartboard,  internet connection, video camera. Find out if your speakers are working or your projector bulb is burned out!  Just because it worked last time,  does not mean it will work the next. By testing a few days before your visits, you greatly reduce the likelihood of problems.
If I happen to be the author that is visiting your class, don't forget that I'm also an IT professional! Don't be afraid to ask. The most common problems are usually quite easy to resolve. None of this is to scare you from your first Skype session. Skype visits are incredibly easy and engaging.
Here are some photos from a classroom in Karachi, Pakistan that I visited last week. Even half-way across the globe, our connection was excellent. Of course, I was also thrilled that schools in Pakistan are reading the Olivia Brophie series.

During a Skype session, I usually have students approach the microphone to ask questions
Leaving plenty of time for questions and answers will increase the engagement level of your students

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