skypeEver since Skype was sold by eBay in 2009 and its visibility skyrocketed, it’s become an increasingly popular tool in the classroom. In fact, so many tech-savvy teachers have been using it that Skype has recently developed a tool specifically for teachers and their classrooms. The program, called “Skype in the classroom”, was just released from its beta status and has begun to permeate the classrooms of more than 30,000 teachers around the world.

The Social Media Phenomenon in the Classroom

So what makes Skype so valuable to teachers that many of them have dedicated countless hours to collaborating with developers in order to create the new “Skype in the classroom” tool? There are several characteristics of this social media giant that make it incredibly useful to teachers and their students:

• It’s free: Without paying a dime, anyone can get free Skype-to-Skype calls, one-to-one video calls, instant messaging, and screen sharing. This means that it’s an affordable way to bring creative teaching and learning to life. Teachers can use the feature in the classroom or require students to use it on collaborative projects, but no matter what a teacher might want to accomplish, Skype is usually good for making it happen.

• It’s omnipresent: Access to Skype isn’t limited to the U.S. Anyone around the world with an Internet connection and a computer or smartphone can use Skype to broaden their horizons.

• It’s multifaceted: With both audio and video calls plus instant messaging and screen sharing, Skype has a lot to offer. Not only can teachers and their students listen to classrooms around the world, but they can also see them in action while interacting with text and images. This kind of variety is integral to inspiring students, capturing their attention, and helping them enjoy learning.

• It’s peer-to-peer: Rather than being based on a client-server system like most VoIP services, Skype is peer-to-peer. In other words, it takes advantage of background processing on computers that are running Skype software instead of charging clients to use servers. By enabling “peers” to share their computers’ resources, Skype decreases cost and increases the system’s total capacity.

• It’s full of potential: With hundreds of millions of users and a growing “Skype in the classroom” program, Skype has the potential to become a full-scope social network with the power to vie against the likes of Facebook and Twitter. With established clients and a peer-to-peer networking system, a few tweaks and additions could make it even more ubiquitous.

What “Skype in the classroom” Brings to the Table

The new tool for teachers and their classrooms has integrated everything teachers have always loved about Skype with some new perspectives on inter-classroom collaboration. Now, teachers can create projects that are either open to everyone or closed to include specific teachers. These projects help students get involved with other teachers and students from other schools, states, countries, and continents. The program also includes a directory that enables teachers to search for like-minded peers who would be willing to participate in valuable trade-offs of information and techniques. Finally, the resource section of the program is flush with links, tips and videos to help other teachers navigate unfamiliar territory.

If you’re thinking about giving the new program a try, you have nothing to lose – and you’ll be able to see yourself appear on the map of the 250 teachers from around the world who have most recently joined “Skype in the classroom”. It’s a powerful resource that’s just waiting to join your arsenal of favorite teaching tools.

Some ideas on how to use Skype In the Classroom:

Bio: Alexis Bonari is currently a resident blogger at College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching the Exxon mobile scholarship as well as fashion design scholarships. Whenever this work at home Mom gets some free time, she enjoys watching a funny movie or curling up with a good book.

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