Thursday, December 18, 2014

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Skype Brings Explorers, Authors and Scientists Into Classrooms Virtually

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TWC News: Skype Brings Explorers, Authors and Scientists Into Classrooms Virtually
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Simple video conferencing is helping to forever change, many would argue for the better, how children are learning in the classroom. NY1’s Adam Balkin filed a report on Skype in the Classroom in his latest Tech Talk.

This is the kind of thing that makes me a bit jealous of the opportunities children today have in school versus when I was a kid. Skype in the Classroom, now celebrating its fifth year, is a relatively common piece of technology, video conferencing, used to connect classrooms with high level scientists, authors, experts in all fields, even children in other classrooms from far away places, live and, virtually, in person.

“So for example if they’re learning about geography or geology they can talk to an explorer on the top of Mount Everest, or they’re learning about oceans they can talk to someone on a glacier and learn about the coastlines and the sea life there and the network is really built for teachers and by teachers where they actually post lessons as well and then we curate and bring in guest speakers and field trips all around the world,” said Wendy Norman of Skype.

Skype in the Classroom is totally free for teachers and schools to use. All they need, of course, is a computer and an Internet connection.

And teachers who use Skype in the Classroom say one look at their students’ eyes and it’s obvious how much they appreciate learning live, from an expert in the field versus learning from a text book.

“Children need to have an emotional connection with what they’re learning in order to commit that to long term memory and when you’re learning out of a textbook that emotional connection isn’t there. Using technology in this transformative way allows kids to be inspired and it allows that deep learning to take place,” said Michael Soskil, a teacher from Newfoundland, Pennsylvania.

“Instead of my students just reading something like ’Treasure Island,’ we can look at current things like piracy around the world, which opened up a ten week project on intellectual property and digital piracy and to have them start to investigate, talking to experts who know about intellectual property helps teach them how to be ethically responsible with it,” said Dyane Smokorowski, a teacher from Andover, Kansas.

And taking this whole idea even further, Microsoft, which owns Skype, recently started with Newcastle University 'School in the Cloud’, where children in remote areas where there might not be any schools can, if they can get to an Internet connected computer, attend entire classes via Skype.

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