I used Skype all last year to connect my social studies classrooms to the world. This year, the district tech admins cut our access. They said it is a security issue and compromises the county network. Has anyone heard anything about this? Is it true? Is Skype blocked in your district?

 

Thanks

Tags: conferencing, skype, video

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i always felt like my biggest battles weren't with my principal--who was always supportive of new things, even if he wasn't sure how they worked--it was with my tech...who seemed to go to tech meetings, come back and lock things down. I don't know why it is such a big deal. Great guy, fun to work with, understood the potential to liven up the classroom--but someone was putting the fear of something in him, cause he wouldn't let us do much. (I was told no to google docs.)
We have another tech now, I am hoping as I get to know him I can help him learn the potential for some of the 2.0 technologies.
One of the things I have as a vision for when I become an administrator is to open things up and harness the technology. My thesis statement for a paper I wrote last fall was essentially that "either we can get on the bus, or under the bus, but no matter what we do as educators--the bus is leaving." In fact, it's left. And unless we utilize some of this stuff we're gonna be about as irrelevant as pay phones and world book encyclopedias
Jonathan,
I teach in a small district north of Charlotte, NC. We've been very fortunate to recieve two very large technology grants over the past two school years. We use skype alot in our district and I've never heard of any "security" issues. In fact, it was manditory that all teachers in our school get on skype. We use it on a daily buisness to communicate between classrooms, teachers, front office and administration. I've even used it to reprimand a former student that I had a great relationship with when their current teacher skyped me to tell me they were goofing in class. It looks to me like your tech admins are behind the times and not willing to accept where we need to be heading as educators. Sorry man. That sucks.

Ryan
I'd like to learn more about how you're using skype in your school? How's it working out for the teachers and the administration? Is it making the communication better, and if yes, how is it better? How are teachers integrating skype in their lesson and how often?

I would appreciate some insight into some of these questions.

With sincere curiousity,

Mirjan
I just got Skype working in my room this year. I have begun using it to connect with various classrooms and conference with colleagues. I think I will follow this thread for a while on the slim chance someone explains how Skype could be a bigger security risk than all our other connections to the internet.
I teach in Ontario. I was recently experimenting with Skype. One of my colleagues and I set it up on our laptops and it was not blocked by the district. Right now I am trying to figure out how to use it best in my teaching. I like Ryan Graham's comment and how his school uses skype to communicate to teachers. What a wonderful idea! I would like to learn more about how to implement skype in my school, perhaps suggest some ideas to the administation to help them with communication.

Sorry to hear that your distric blocked skype.

Mirjan Krstovic
I am a big supporter of Skype or other video conferencing software in the classroom. I do not see exactly how it can be a security problem. Skype does receive spam (chats) from time to time so you have to watch that. The biggest problem I can see some districts having is bandwidth. If you are a hub and spoke computer network and you happen to be at a school that is one of the spokes, skyping and streaming any multimedia might be a problem. It could bring the network down to a halt. Activity at one school can effect other schools if you are setup this way (as most school districts are).

That is really the only problems I can see. If that problem did exist though you would probably know it because your internet would be slow all of the time. In extreme cases skype would be very unreliable as well. A good tech person can use software to analyze network traffic and provide specific data to support this claim. Claiming a security concern is rather vague.

We are very active in setting up video conference activities with our classes grades k-12. If anyone is interested please let me know. We work on global issue projects, book talks, general information exchanges, etc...
Thanks for all your feedback guys. Yes, this is very frustrating for me, especially as we did several international projects last year using Skype, some of which drew letters of congratuations from an embassy and even Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov. I am now doing my graduate research on using video conferencing to make Social Studies curriculum more international, active, and focused on real world problem solving. Schools on three continents are collaborating on the idea of Sustainable Development. I have begged my Tech managers at the district level to let me use Skype and they obtusely reject my pleas. This despite the media recognition they got from projects I did last year. Frustrating.

Their argument is that Skype works like a bot and compromises security. My suspicion, as Nic stated, is that they went to some conference where someone complained about skype and returned like Barney Fife to impose new regulations. I am trying SightSpeed now, which works great, but the Russian school can't get the proper firewall settings to make it work, and communicating the fix to their IT staff--who speak no English--has been extremely difficult.

Doug, I'd really like to hear more about how your are using video conferencing to work with other schools on global issues. That is my exact interest.

Jonathan
TinyChat works for me as well. Ironically, I do see it as potentially inappropriate in the same way YouTube can be. Skype allows far better security. I have three Skype-ready computers in my classroom and at least five of my 4-5 students have their own Skype accounts. We are at an interesting point where in many places the institutional leadership, technology consultants and technicians stand bewildered as the crowd they were coaxing forward stampedes past them.
As far as our admin/front office using skype, the best part is that we now have very little classroom interuptions via school wide announcements or all calls during class time. (i.e. front office making all calls for a student over loud speaker) It also great when sending a student somewhere. If a student needs to go to guidance, I can quickly skype there and say so and so is on their way or skype to see if they have time to see them at that moment. It also has eliminated students trying to roam hallways or pulling the "well Mrs. So and So said they needed me to come by", b/c I can simply skype there and find out. A teacher on my team has also skyped into his own room this year when he was out w/ his sick child. Was very cool for the kids.
Here is a link I found with some helpful ideas for skyping in classroom.

http://www.teachingdegree.org/2009/06/30/50-awesome-ways-to-use-sky...

Ryan
We communicate through Outlook within the school. I was home one day and used Ustream to work with my class for a while. It was great. I sent a student off Friday on her family's holiday. I encouraged her to connect in if she could. It is all so possible for us if the gate keepers can be less guarded.
First of all, I had heard of issues with Skype from an IT perspective, but didn't really understand it. Second, we use Skype at our school.

This link provides some info about *possible* security issues with Skype http://www.flinders.edu.au/isd/policies-procedures-and-guidelines/a... It boils down to the fact that Skype as a program *could* use your computer for calls that are not initiated by you - using your computer as another router. That is what freaks *some* IT people out about it.

There's a lot of jargon in this link, so it might be hard to wade through. But there is some info that IT people could use to set up Skype in schools safely.
thanks!

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