Hello everyone. I am a Middle School principal in Illinois and looking for opportunities to incorporate some distance contact with students or people who feel they can share expertise in various areas.

Let me know your pleasure. We have teachers in 6th 7th and 8th grades looking for opportunities in all subject areas.

In the end, the other party (parties) will help us decide how to best incorporate and utilize the technology. A bit like reverse engineering - we want to explore the technology first and find ways to tie it back to curriculum / standards.

Also, anyone with successful experiences, please feel free to share as we are constantly looking for ideas.


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This is a GREAT idea. I'm wondering what resources there might be other places to find experts to talk about different things. In particular, I'm thinking of how great it would be to have a list of educators (and even students!) by specialty that were willing to talk about particular topics. For instance, I met a guy a couple of months ago who specializes in music in the Civil War. Wouldn't it be great to be able to find him and schedule him to talk to a class using Skype-like technology? This fits really well with my sense that the "long tail" in education is going to present some amazing opportunities.

Maybe a wiki would be a good place to start organizing folks who are willing to participate in this way. Or another Ning network might be appropriate for this kind of collaboration. I'd love to help in some way.

Does ePals already have any kind of service that is related to this?
Your thinking is good, but maybe not so practical. There's two big problems I see.

First, how many "experts" would want to be on a wide-open list of "people who want to talk about topics." I wouldn't want random people from around the world emailing me just because I was nice enough to talk to my nephew's class via Skype.

Second, how many people are out there that are familiar with Skype-like technology? How many even have webcams or are willing to use them? It seems like it would be a debacle to try to convince people to download Skype, get them to learn and adjust to it, and problem solve with them when they can't figure out how to upload the drivers for their colleague's webcam.
Good questions, but my experiences would lead me to believe that there are likely to be some number of educators who would find this worthwhile. And I'm not sure how widespread it has to be at the start to make sense. Which maybe goes to point number two--not sure how many you need at the start to make this work.

What's amazing about Skype is the "ubiquity" factor. As it's used more and more, it will become a baseline that we can count on--like email has become.

I'm REALLY interested in this. Sorry, Chris--you haven't dissuaded me!
I am a classroom teacher who loves using skype in my classroom as it connects my rurally isolated students with so many around the globe. A web camera is not an expensive piece of equipment and we just use a cheap one with satisfactory results. We also use a cheap desktop microphone and a data show that projects onto a wall in the classroom. If I can book the library we are able to use videoconferencing on an interactive white board, which is preferred.
I agree with Angelo that you need to play with the technology first, learn the appropriate skills for successful videoconferencing and then the powerful learning possibilities that can eventuate will flow on. We find using a show and tell type activity is the best form. There is a skypeinschools pbwiki already set up with interested educationalists adding their names to its pages and Sue Waters has added a page on the edubloggers blog with a list of interested people. My students would say that this is the best learning activity of all as they just love to connect with fellow students around the globe on near f2f basis.
I just concluded a SKYPE debate with my Gt history class(I am in Texas) vs. a class in North Hollywood California. We debated Federalists vs. Democratic Republicans. Although we ran into some audio problems I believe we have it all sorted out for future SKYPE interactions. This was a wonderful experience for my students. I am ready to explore this great learning activity with any history classes that are willing. Your remarks were a little pessimistic. Downloading SKYPE is easy. Getting a simple camera and a PC microphone is no big deal. For anyone who is willing to take a small risk this kind of learning is motivating and fun. Check out my video of this in my profile.

So, you're thinking of an "expert repository" or database of sorts?

Thanks for clarifying.

Steve, I totally agree! A collective place for Skype-ers to connect & collaborate is just what I need.
I teach 3rd grade in Central PA. (you may remember me as one of Capozzoli's guinea pigs who took you to dinner at the hole-in-the wall restaurant.lol) So far I've exerimented using Skype with other classes in the same building and across the state! I've even had parents Skype from work to read a book to the class...talk about a cool guest reader! I'm still looking with others to connect with and tie it back to curriculum as well.
Hi! Of course, I do remember! :) That was fine dining!
Mea, I'd love to hear more about some of the ways you are using skype in the classroom. I love the idea about having parents read a story using skype. Thanks for the idea.
I'm from Italy and perhaps my experience is different but... why parents don't come at school to read stories? is it your school so far from their workplace? I think that their presence would be more... "empatic" for students. Instead it would be really interesting let someone from very far to read stories about their own places to our student (Hawaian teacher who read hawaian stories to Illinois student it would be interesting, isn't it? or even foreign people could read stories from their own countries.
Isn' it more interesting?
Hi Fabrizio, I think that any opportunity for parents to be involved in the classroom is a great thing, whether it be through using skype at the workplace or dropping in to visit. Either way, you are making your classroom available to others through technology. I also like your idea of using people from other areas of the world to do the same thing. ..more great ideas with Skype. Thanks!
Hi Angelo,

I'd definitely consider online professional development for your teachers. One of the best ways to build connections with learners today, as you're demonstrating, is to use the technology among educators.

Another suggestion is to think about creating blended classrooms that integrate online learning technologies and practices with students.

Lastly, I hear from teachers all the time about how useful they find the FREE Teacher Toolbar (listed among Jane Hart's BEST eLearning Tools in Education) at http://professionallearningboard.ourtoolbar.com . You might consider taking a look and sharing it with your teachers.

Of course, I'm happy to further share my expertise in these areas. Please feel free to visit my Classroom 2.0 profile and contact me directly if interested.

Ellen Paxton



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