Skype in the Classroom

Bringing in the Experts

Skype in the ClassroomField trips. Every kid loves a field trip. It is a time to get outside the four walls of the classroom and beyond the school building out into the real world. In today’s tough economic times many schools are cutting back on field trip opportunities, but current technology tools like Skype in the Classroom afford teachers and students access to endless information, data, images and experts from all over the globe. In order to prepare students for careers within this globally connected marketplace, educators should seek opportunities to leverage technology to engage, excite, inform and inspire their students.

Recently I read about a teacher in Wrangell Alaska doing just that. During teacher Galla’s civics class, she was trying to inform students about the current debt crisis in America. However, she felt limited in the specifics she could offer, saying, “I only know as much as a teacher knows, so obviously there’s only so much I can teach on the national debt and specifics.” Considering a field trip to the US capitol from Alaska to meet with the experts was out of the question, so Galla used Skye technology as a way to bring an expert to her students. This article, posted by KSTK news, describes how former comptroller general David Walker visited Ms. Galla’s class to talk in detail about America’s debt crisis.

Skype in the Classroom Graphic

Skype in the Classroom Graphic

As I reflect on the experience of this class I thought, how cool! I truly see this experience as meeting the challenge of educating today’s students as described by the Common Core Reading Standards for Literacy in History, which strive to build students, “capacity to evaluate intricate arguments, synthesize complex information, and follow detailed descriptions of events and concepts.” (pg. 60) Using 21st century technology to bring expert opinions and detailed information to students from places far and wide really exemplifies the interdisciplinary themes and approaches advocated by both the Common Core and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

I also appreciate that the article mentions that the experience was not without technical difficulty. Mr. Walker explains, “We did have some technical problems during part of the presentation. But I do think that leveraging technology is a very effective way to be able to reach people all around the world and to be able to bring people that otherwise may not have the time or the ability to travel to a particular location to present and interact with people in different parts of the country, in different parts of the world, in a very cost-effective manner.”

I do hope that more teachers are willing to brave the technical challenges and integrate these types of opportunities like Skype in the Classoom more frequently as a way to meet standards that call for students to integrate knowledge and ideas from multiple sources and use that information to address a question, solve a problem, or argue a position effectively.

So, while a field trip to DC would have been amazing, I am sure that Ms. Galla’s students will not soon forget their visit from financial expert David Walker.

Diane RymerDiane Rymer is our Director of Professional Development and is responsible for the overall development and implementation for all of our professional development programs. Diane brings a wealth of professional development experience, including Supervisor of Professional Development at Baltimore County Public Schools and Assistant Director of Professional Development at Maryland Public Television. Diane earned her Master’s of Science/Technology for Educators from John Hopkins University and her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Loyola University, Maryland.

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