Teachers have long embraced Skype. Now the company is embracing them back with special features for educators.
Good news for teachers looking to collaborate with their colleagues in other parts of the world. Skype has a new free service just for educators called Skype in the classroom, "a free global community created in response to, and in consultation with, the growing number of teachers" using the tool to help students learn.
Teachers already access the eight-year-old service for joint projects, global language exchanges, and guest lectures, but have had a hard time using it to find like-minded collaborators. Skype in the classroom solves that challenge by letting a teacher specify what grade or subject she teaches, and what kinds of projects she's interested in working on together, when she first sets up a profile.
Last December Missouri fifth grade teacher Kara Cornejo became one of the first beta testers of the tool. When Cornejo set up her profile, she indicated she "wanted to do a weather around the world unit." A one-minute search of other testers led her to another educator looking to collaborate on the same unit. By the end of the first day, five additional teachers had reached out to her.
The service already has almost 7,000 users, and Skype is looking for additional feedback on how to keep making the tool even better. They're also looking for tips, articles, links and success stories that can be added to their library of inspirational resources and ideas. They've already received classroom videos
on weather, mega-cities, and world populations, to classroom exchanges on earthquakes, culture and language, to helping deaf children communicate, teaching English to Haitian children, connecting students with experts from lawyers and authors, survival experts, paleoanthropologists, and other inspirational guest speakers on global issues such as peace and the importance of intercultural cooperation.
Need proof that the collaboration being facilitated by Skype in the classroom isn't just hype? Watch the video below detailing a U.S. and Chilean classroom exchange on earthquakes.