July 24, 2007
A little used tool of mine came in REALLY handy this summer!!
Okay, yes, I will blog about Skype. Skype is a handy tool that allows you to have f2f conversations with a person using an online connection. All that is needed is a good connection and a webcam. Now I have to confess that I have been using Skype for about 2 years. My entire family uses it for calls–even my 72 year old mother! You see, I have three brothers and three sisters, and we are scattered around: I’m in Rock Hill, SC (soon to be Myrtle Beach), one is in Seattle, WA, two are in Charleston. SC, one in Columbia, SC, the rest right there with dear old Mom in Lancaster, SC. But we travel a good bit too, so Skype has allowed us to really share travels and experiences with each other. I will not go into the technical details of Skype, but it is a downloadable program, and there is a free version of it. You don’t have to be really all that technically savvy to download it, set up your web cam and use it. I promise. My technophobic mother did it for pete’s sake!
But my reason for blogging about it is related to the uses I’ve found for it. I was introduced to Skype I want to say three years ago in October (2004) during the SC EdTech conference sponsored by SCAET. I downloaded it then, but couldn’t really get any frineds to use it. Then last Christmas as we sat around after eating Christmas Dinner, somehow it came up in a conversation, and all of my brothers and sisters agreed to download it and use it. We demonstrated for Mom too, and we’ve all been using it since. I’ve been in conferences too many to name where presenters (like Alan November, David Warlick, and others) have also demonstrated Skype. But I hadn’t really figured out how I might use it for my own educational journey. I even skyped Alan November in March during our SCASL Conference, when he was trying to demonstrate it there! It was a funny moment–read about it here.
I have had a few professional conversations with some of the experts I know (Alan November, Chris Craft) but other than that, I’ve had little use for it. Now that does not mean it wasn’t important to me. It’s just that I didn’t feel the need to use it outside the uses I’ve mentioned just now. But recently, I’ve begun to see it in a different light. I follow several different live podcast type programs on EdTech Talk, and many of them have their guests call in using Skype. They are frequently asking if anyone wants to “skype” in, though honestly I haven’t had the nerve to do that just yet.
But recently, David Jakes sort of sponsored a “Skypecast” of the sessions he would be attending at the November Learning Conference (Building Learning Communities) last week. Now I had attended NECC, and knew that some were doing this “skypecasting” of sessions, but it didn’t make sense to me why i would join a skypecast if I were there in person hearing, seeing, and participating. So I ignored the invitations at NECC to join in skypechats. I read over the blogs that posted the scripts of the skypechats, but really didn’t give it much more thought. Then BLC happened, and I wasn’t going, but Jakes had extended this invitation! So I jumped at the chance. David, along with many other experts who were there (Will Richardson, Ewan McIntosh, Joyce Valenza, and so many more…)used the Skypechat to summarize the presenters points, and do some reflecting and asking questions that racheted up my learning like I couldn’t believe. It was a whole different level of participating. Amazingly enough, some of the presenters even participated in the Skypechats about their own presentations! it was like back channeling going on, and it all centered on the topic at hand. Very few folks got off topic, and we (those in the session and those like me, sitting at home) didn’t miss anything. If anything, we all got a deeper understanding of the content. Read about my experience here.
Here is a pix uploaded by Will Richardson of David Jakes’ screen during BLC. If I’m not mistaken, I’m the third contact on that screen! Hey, isn’t that Bloglines on the presenter’s screen? Another favorite tool I use!
Now I have another friend (Kitty Forbus) who is learning Skype. She used me today as a guinea pig to test her web cam and microphone. It was a major revelation for her. She then asked for some ideas on how to use it–to really implement it in the classroom. Guess what? I drew a great big fat blank! I was so embarrassed! But she bounced back with some really good ideas, which she posted here in her blog, Stirring up the Dust. I may use some of your ideas Kitty! Just as I’ve been a help to her in some respects, she is being a help to me too. Thanks Kitty.