I recently responded to a post on LM_NET regarding the use of Skype in the classroom. Subsequently there was a lot of interest in the Skype projects that I posted about (see below), plus the Skype manual that I generated for the Lake Placid Middle/High School (LPMHS) as part of a class assignment. I created the Skype manual specifically for the school in which I was interning, but it includes information about settings, sample project ideas, procedural recommendations, and links to additional information, so the manual could be applicable in many different school settings. So here’s the link to the manual: lpmhs-skype-manual
While doing my student teaching at LPMHS under the excellent tutelage of Sara Kelly Johns, we conducted two different Skype interactions between Christian Wissler’s LPMHS biology students and David Fahey’s students at LaFayette High School in Williamsburg, VA. The hardest part was finding another school and teacher to Skype with, and coordinating timing. It helped that both schools were in the same time zone! An excellent resource for getting started is the Skype in Schools wiki. Ultimately, I ended up using personal contacts to find a partner school.
The first project was a debate on genetically engineered foods between the two classes. Both classes researched the topic ahead of time, and the debate took place via Skype. The debate ended up being only marginally successful since the two classes were not evenly matched in terms of age or ability, and the competitive nature of the interaction was stressful for the kids. The second project was much more successful: a discussion via Skype between two groups of biology students. Each class did some research about ecological issues in both regions (the Chesapeake Bay in Virgina and the Adirondacks in northern New York). The students asked each other questions about acid rain, water quality, pollution, development pressure, and invasive species. Afterwards, the kids were allowed to briefly discuss general topics such as what they did for fun, and how much snow it takes before school is closed (1/2 inch in Virginia, over a foot in the Adirondacks!). It was a lot of fun for both students and teachers! My favorite question (which was unnecessarily prefaced by “This is a dumb question, but…”) was “does acid rain taste different?”
Overall, I found Skype to be an excellent resource for broadening students’ minds and teaching them about life in other regions or other countries. For students like ours that come from very rural areas, this type of interaction is especially invaluable. I hope to conduct many more Skype interactions once I settle into a real library job!