The most useful free tool for education today may be Skype. This service can use existing phone lines, but works best with an Internet connection. If you add an overhead projector, the whole class can participate in talks with artists, writers, university professors, other schools and scientists around the world. Skype makes learning real in real time. Students can ask questions, get answers immediately and learn how to take notes while taking part in conference calls.
Because the calls are in real time, I suggest students use only one computer, the teacher’s, to ask questions. I also suggest a web-camera be used by the artist or other contact person, but it could be optional by the teacher.
Check out some of these valuable sites before using Skype. Remember, Skype does not require a technological gift. It is simply a phone call with or without a web camera -- low cost, effective and students can greatly benefit. I recommend students submit a list of questions to the teacher beforehand and complete pre- and post-assignments.
Beware that some contacts offering lessons in subjects such as Spanish want money for the lessons. However, this is the exception and easily checked with a free call. Also, you need to learn about Skype credits.
ePals Global Community - Large and very valuable site for making contacts
Skype in Schools: Adjust your Sails - Information for districts to consider
Using Skype in the Classroom - A step-by-step process to set up program -- what is needed and how to use it
Skype an Author Network - The mission of this site is to provide K-12 teachers and librarians a way to connect authors, books and young readers through virtual visits.
Skype in Schools - This is a wiki site, so beware that there are a variety of ads in the margins. That being said, the site has been used by a lot of teachers. Find contact e-mail addresses and ideas.
Educational Use of Skype - Innovative uses of Skype includes parent conferences
Use Skype with Students - A teacher uses it on her travels
50 Awesome Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom
Video Conferencing with Skype - Skype tutorials and more
Foreign Language Contacts
Skype in the Classroom - A blog for Skype users -- has a list of teachers interested in connecting with other teachers.
ETV Remote Interviews - Examples of Skype used by experienced teacher
Cool Cat Teacher Blog: Using Skype in the Classroom
Skype in the K-12 Classroom - PowerPoint about Skype
Skype: A True Friend of International B-schools - Important things to check -- everything from preparing questions to time zones
Integrating Technology in the Classroom
Using Skype in the Classroom - A slide show
Project Idea: Around the World in 80 Schools