I was introduced to Skype some 6 years ago. At the time, I was involved in a long distance relationship with a charming Californian girl studying ballet in Rome, Italy. Thanks to Skype, the the Atlantic ocean and the 4000 miles in between our home weren’t preventing us to have a little talk before going to bed. Only the language barrier was left to overcome. However, as I recently offered myself to teach French to a few American College students in the Area of Seattle, I quickly had to consider the means I could use to teach with such a great distance between me and and my students. My first reflex was to look if Skype could suit my needs, and I was glad to discover this free software had gotten even more to offer.
Indeed, Skype has significantly evolved.
Originally, you could use Skype to call another user and use your the camera of your computer to film simultaneously your discussion. Pretty much like a computer version of what people of the 60’s thought telephones would be like by the year two-thousand. You could also, and still can, email, send text messages and call from your computer to a telephone for the ridiculously low price of about 1 cent a minute. But now, it’s even more. With its new branch, Skype Education enables the teacher to open up his classroom to the world, to share, connect and communicate with other professionals in the field.
Their Website in wonderfully conceived. With Webpages for pretty much every school subject, Skype Education offers a wide variety of readily available lessons. If you’re an ESL teacher just like me, you can record your lessons on Skype and make them available from anywhere for your students. Moreover, because oral interaction is always better, you can obviously have a one on one conversation with your student to explain certain notions, help her practice or simply answer her questions. You can also video-conference with as many as 25 people, basically a whole class where each students are in the comfort of their own living room. I can also be used as a forum for students to practice with native speakers. In certain areas, rare are the opportunities to have an authentic engaging discussion with a native speaker of the language you’re learning, with Skype it’s readily accessible for free. Opportunities to use Skype in the classroom are as diverse as they are enriching for the students.
With the great improvements made by Skype in the last few years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see its popularity growing considerably in the near future. Beside the potential it holds in terms of its diversity of classroom activities, one of Skype’s greatest strengths is that it takes the learning experience outside of the classroom and it globalizes it. For students of a generation that are used to use technology on a daily basis, enabling them to connect with others for free is a wonderful opportunity for them to widen their horizons while developing their proficiency in L2.