Skype seems to be the tool of choice for creating more global connections for educators. It’s excellent for quickly contacting experts in other school districts, for joining in workshops as a guest speaker, for coordinating plans between presenters who live in different cities, and for coordinating global education projects, etc.
But some school districts have concerns about the software on the network. (including mine).
We know many of the educational benefits of Skype–we have used Skype to skype in an author for a virtual author visit with our sophomore English classes, used it to Skype in several great speakers to our District Leadership team meeting, and used it within the district to communicate across the street with our learning center in answering a reference question.
I know that some reservations can be handled with careful policies–such as having teachers initiate any use of it, using generic “skype names” when having students participate (like our author visit), using polite protocol, like asking permission ahead of time before Skyping someone, etc. I share some ideas for that in an article I wrote a few months ago for School Library Journal on how we used Skype for our author visit.
But since it’s free and the main tool used by many schools involved in global projects and communication, it’s hard to easily replace with another one(which might involve cost for the other end user or involve them downloading and installing other software.)
I also think that it’s important to balance the needs of student learning in this 21st century environment with the issues of any network, risk vs. safety as Tim Stahmer has mentioned before. Sometimes those things come into conflict, but I’m hopeful that there are “third ways” to solve some of those conflicts, by using best practices.
So I’d like to take a general survey out there and ask for comments about the use of Skype in schools.
There are concerns in our district and elsewhere about how Skype runs on a network, so it’d be helpful if any of you “techie types” or network administrators respond to that concern. But I’d also be interested in knowing more about educational uses you’ve had for the tool.
Thanks ahead of time for the feedback!