Skype in the Classroom! Sweet!
Back in the Day
It was difficult to connect kids electronically when I first started back in 1983. We didn’t have a graphical user interface (GUI)! And the modems! Oh my goodness. Information traveling at the speed of snails! Things got a little easier when old friends, Al Rogers & Yvonne Andres, created FrEdMail.
Three early and successful online learning projects were NewsDay, Tele-Field Trips, and GeoGame. In 1993, FrEdMail became, and still is, Global SchoolNet Foundation (GSN). In 1996, GSN launched CyberFair, GSN’s premier collaborative project. In this collaborative project, students researched their local communities in various categories and published their findings to the Web. This was well before the Read/Write web (Web 2.0) we know today!
I remember Al coming to my school in Toronto in 1995 just as we were having our CyberFair culminating activity. It was so exciting as we connected our students with students in Australia – via CUSeeMe!
Primitive – but awesome nevertheless! And it was deep and meaningful.
Al had just read my publication ThinkingLand–Helping Students Construct Knowledge with Multimedia and we agreed that as these new technologies become popular that there is a danger that they will be used in trivial ways. ‘Connecting for the sake of connecting’ for example – because it’s cool to do so.
Our students deserve more than the cool factor. We want kids to have rich collaborations – to think deeply and to think critically.
“Critical Thinking” has many definitions – depending on the lens with which you see the world!
(I must admit, I am not one that easily holds to the packaging of these kinds of constructs*. However, I find the definitions useful to think more significantly about the notions. Guess I’m being a ‘critical thinker’! 😉 )
Nevertheless, I have spent most of my career focussed on helping kids become better thinkers – both individually and collectively. There are many posts in this blog about all of that!
Having said all that, Skype has a new program available to schools and students. It is called Skype in the Classroom.
Skype in the Classroom
Skype in the Classroom is free and its easy. You can connect with other classrooms with ease. You can join existing projects. You can have ‘experts’ come to visit your classroom. Check it out!
Having an ‘expert’ visit? Here is a link to a PDF based on a ‘critical thinking’ model provided by TC2 – The Critical Thinking Consortium. It will guide you and your students in creating criteria for developing powerful questions to ask a guest whom you might have into your classroom via Skype (or any other way for that matter)!
If you are engaging in student collaboration, then kick it up a notch from ‘social’ conversation to substantive, cognitive collaboration. I have given some thoughts on how to do that in Scaffolding for Deep Understanding.
So, get connected! But do it with a critical eye!
* I often wonder, “Is that construct that we are describing a reality, or are we just making categories because we have language to do so”? Read: James Gleick’s Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood for more about that perspective!