Whether that’s a face-to-face video call to another classroom in another part of the same local area (perhaps primary schools where pupils will work together in a similar geographical location, maybe connected by the same high school to which most pupils will attend), or to an acknowledged authority with specialist knowledge or skills who could inspire learners.
Teachers using a live video link to connect classrooms can, to some, seem something quite ordinary and commonplace, and to others is still something which generates a worry about perceived technical complexities. Not so long ago most schools would have been unable to even consider a video call simply because of lack of suitable equipment, infrastructure or bandwidth. Now, where there is good bandwidth, there are often several options available to make video-conferencing possible with relative ease.
Although the occasional use of video-conferencing may appear to be, in itself, a reason for using it as a skill to be learned, as with any digital technology it will only be of great value in the learning process if there are clear learning outcomes from the experience planned by the teacher. So a music teacher or instrumental tutor working from afar via video link with a learner elsewhere will have their focus on what is to be taught and what the pupil is to learn, rather than on the video link being seen as a one time gimmick. That applies whether the class members are asking questions of an author, or a museum collections specialist, or an engineer – it’s not the novelty of using a video-conferencing tool which has to be at the centre of planning, but what will be done in the video link conversation.
What tools can I use to video-conference?
There are a number of tools available to link via video, whether online conferencing tools, mobile device apps or installed software on desktop computers. Schools will generally often find that specific tools have been configured for their networks as video-conferencing involves access to network firewalls/ports. And this may be different in schools or for other users in another geographical location. Therefore it would always be good to check in advance of any planned activity what can work best in any particular situation.
This post concentrates on the tool for video-conferencing which is available to all Scottish schools via Glow, though there will be other web tools, desktop applications or mobile device apps which could be used.
Skype for Business, formerly called Lync, is part of Office 365 available to all Scottish schools. Note that for Scottish schools using Skype via Glow this is available for staff accounts only (they can invite pupils to a Skype meeting but pupils cannot set up a meeting themselves). If a school wishes to use their Glow account to connect with a body outwith Scottish schools then a staff member can log in with their staff Glow account and simply add an external email address (rather than require to have a partner Glow account set up for that external body).
Skype/Lync is one of the suite of tools included in Microsoft Office 365 through Glow.
How teachers using Glow can set up a Skype room for sharing with many others with no need to log in
Click on the Sway below to get a step-by-step guide to setting up a Skype room which can be used again and again with many others, who simply need to click on the link you share and who do not need to sign in to anything
How to use the Glow Skype/Lync Video-conferencing tool to connect with another Glow user:
1. Log into Glow
2. On the RM Unify tiles click on Office 365 (Calendar)
NB In the event that you or a previous user on that PC has used an installed desktop version of Lync you may need to force the use of the Lync Web App. Here’s the “fix” to do so (there is no simple button to do so):
How to take part in a Skypeathon collaborative Skype connection
The Sway presentation above has the steps for finding other educators with whom to connect your classroom, and to make arrangements for a mutually agreeable time to connect the two classrooms at the same time. The first two steps show how to find another educator and to set up the time so that the mileage between the two locations records on the Microsoft educator Community. If you are simply looking for the guide to setting up a Glow connection using your Glow username then only step 3 in that Sway presentation is required.
What to do if you are broadcasting to others who do not have a webcam
Web version of Skype
The web version of Skype may be used via an Internet browser to access Skype https://web.skype.com. More can be found about this facility from Skype’s own blog: http://blogs.skype.com/2014/11/14/please-welcome-skype-for-web-beta/
More than just video
Skype is more than just conferencing by video – you can share uploaded files (such as a Powerpoint presentation, which a presenter can then guide viewers through); there’s a chat facility to get text message feedback throughout a presentation (and that includes the facility for messaging between individuals or to the whole group); there’s a polling tool to seek responses on specific questions; and hosts of meetings can vary rights of participants as they enter the room or at any time in the meeting so that microphone and/or webcam can be enabled; and there’s the option to share the desktop of a presenter to demonstrate something such as how a piece of software on the host PC works.
Available on Mobile Devices
There’s mobile device apps available to provide the facility for participants using mobile devices to access Skype meetings – this may open automatically when clicking on the shared meeting room web address (URL).
How can I make a video link more engaging for learners?
Many teachers around the world have shared about creative ways they have used video-conferencing tools. Some will use Skype while other will use another tool. The ideas are generally always transferable to any video-link tool – the learning activity is central to the use of the tool. So, whichever tool you use, the following may provide inspiration for how you could use a video link with your class.
Skype in the Classroom – Microsoft has produced a superb site for supporting teachers looking to user their Skype tool in an educational setting. It provides training in how to make it work, ideas for how others have used it at different ages and stages, as well as across the curriculum, provides a forum for teachers sharing ideas or finding connections for their class project, and has topical links to fit in with events happening in current affairs. Microsoft also have a page of tutorials on using Skype/Lync.
Mystery Skype is described as “an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to build cultural awareness, critical thinking skills, and geography skills by guessing the location of the other classroom through a series of yes/no questions. It is suitable for all age groups and can be adapted for any subject area.” The post by Jonathan Wylie “Mystery Skype – a curriculum for schools” describes how it works and provides links to a host of resources to support teachers making use of Skype whethevr the age, stage or curricular area. Mystery Skype Excites Fifth Graders is a newspaper article describing the use of Mystery Skype by teacher Brad Luce.
Five Ways to use Skype in your Classroom – an article by Kathy Cassidy which describes five ways to use Skype, specifically looking at how it supports literacy, mathematics, mapping, as well as bringing in expertise across the curriculum – and just for a bit of fun!
6 Creative Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom – a post by Kristen Hicks on the Edudemic site which describes different ways in which video links can support learners in a variety of contexts. The post also includes links to additional resources which would be helpful when making use of Skype.
20 WebCam Activities for EFL ESL Students – a post by Nik Peachey which gives imaginative ideas for using video-link tools to support learners which, while aimed in this post at developing language skills in learners, can be adapted for use across the curriculum.