Removing the barriers

One “techie” tool that has got me jazzed this summer is Skype.

skype_logo.png    If you haven’t used Skype, it allows you to “phone” or “conference call” others from your computer to anyone anywhere;  it also has a chat room feature which you can use along with the conference call or separately.

Some great features include the ability to log or bookmark the chat or call, so that it can be read or heard later, for your own reference or to share with others.

In the last couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to participate in some very exciting conversations via Skype.  This morning I got to be part of a teacher workshop in New Jersey.  The presenter, Patrick Higgins,  “skyped” in three of us, and he interviewed us about blogging over Skype as the teachers listened in and asked questions.

The more I’ve used this tool, the more I’ve been thinking about its use in the classroom and in the library.  (And since it is Global Library 2.0 week, it seemed like the perfect time to write about it!)

We often talk about networking with others outside of our campus and connecting students to those outside of the campus.  There is so much that students can gain from interacting with students in other places with other experiences, or in interacting with experts in different fields.

But also, as our campus is thinking more about interdisciplinary connections between subject areas within our current “8 period day” framework, I think tools like Skype and blogs are great ones to enable our students in different classrooms to connect to one another within our campus, as well as without.

I am imagining the possibilities of our junior American Literature class skyping into our junior American history class, for example, to work on a particular investigation.  Add to that an outside person skyping into both classes to talk to them simultaneously about something related to what they are studying.

I’m imagining the use of this tool as a librarian, skyping in a guest speaker, or guest “researcher” for a class working on a particular research problem, or skyping in authors for a chat with a class.  Or hosting a regular once monthly “skypecast” of a guest speaker on a technology topic.   Or hosting a book discussion “skypecast” during the evening as a special library event for students to join in.  It’s video conferencing made very simple, and like blogs, though it is a techology “tool” it offers all sorts of connective possibilities for us and our students.

And again, like blogging, it is about helping students have reflective conversations that extend their learning, and that extend their range of possibilities.

(I’m going to write more later about the Skypecast I participated in today, once the audio of it is available soon on Chalkdust, Patrick’s blog.   Even though I was there as a guest, I learned a great deal about blogging, (probably learned more than I shared!) because the other two Skypees,  Konrad Glogowski  and Clay Burrell, have used blogs much more in a classroom setting and shared a deep understanding of how to effectively help students with them.)


Barbara Barreda wrote recently about Joyce Valenza’s presentation at the Building Learning Communities conference.  Joyce talked about how as a librarian she wanted to be where her users are.   I see Skype as one  web 2.0 tools that would allow for that possibility.  

So many of the web 2.0 tools allow us to remove barriers–the hours of a school day, the walls of a classroom, the walls of a building, the city limits, a country’s borders.    What can we provide for our students when we open up the possibilities of a barrier free learning environment?

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6 thoughts on “Removing the barriers

  1. I’m also interested in the potential for Skype as an online learning tool – just hoping that the bandwidth holds up! As we explore the collaborative nature of this tool, let’s definitely share! Giving students the opportunity to visit via ‘live’ voice across county lines, state borders, or nations offers so much! Imagine the value of diversity and synergy!!! Some of your discussion seems quite relevant for future discussion vis a vis Clarence Fisher’s K-12 Conference 2007 Boundaries wiki (!

  2. Great minds must think alike. While I am no where near as profound as you, and i don’t have deep thought provoking things to say, i blogged today about this too. You see I convinced an LMS that Skype was the tool to have. I sent her to buy her webcam, made a date to check it out, and we had our very first f2f today. It was our very first f2f meeting ever–as we had already become virtual friends through some similar interests. The this shows u in my bloglines tonight. I think skype has warped me now, as i don’t see how i will ever enjoy a presentation again without a skype partner to chat with about what i am learning. Next skype session you attend, please consider inviting me in. “cathyjonelson” in South Carolina. : )

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