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Skype in the classroom

Skype has launched a beta version of skype in the classroom

Skype in the classroom is a new product inspired by the growing community of teachers that use Skype and video chat to help their students learn. It’s easy to see why: video chat can help students discover new cultures, languages and ideas, all without even leaving the classroom. Schools use it to bring speakers, experts and guest instructors into the classroom.

Skype in the classroom, a directory of like-minded educators, can help those teachers prepare and manage the new learning experiences more efficiently:

  • Cultural exchange: Introduce students to new ways of seeing the world with a cultural exchange between their class and another classroom anywhere in the world.
  • Language skills: Enable real-life conversations where students can practice a new language with a class of native speakers, or help English learners practice their skills.
  • Discovery: Try mystery Skype calls, where classes connect online and give clues to help each guess the other’s location. Or introduce your students to a classroom in the location of a book they’re reading or a subject they’re studying.

Although Skype has supported several educational initiatives before, e.g. Peace One Day, which uses video chat to produce intercultural cooperation lessons, Skype in the classroom brings the whole learning and teaching experience to a new level.

Skype in the classroom (beta) is still under development and for the moment basically a growing directory of educators. But Skype says it plans to widen the network and to support connecting classes with speakers and experts who are willing to Skype in to a class. Just imagine an astronaut skyping in from the international space station.

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Learning without a school?

“You can have places where you can’t build a school. And even more commonly you can have places where you have schools but good teachers don’t want to or can not go there. What do you do about that? Because there are children everywhere. And that’s what I’m trying to address.”

After his groundbreaking Hole in the Wall Project, Sugata Mitra, came up with another great idea providing education to those who used to be excluded or could be reached only with great difficulties. He uses Skype video chat and has recruited hundreds of grannies in Newcastle — the UK Granny Cloud — to go online and help children in India with their education, based on the grandmother method – stand behind, admire, act fascinated and praise.

UK-India-BBC-Sugata-Mitra-Granny-Cloud

This a great example of how to bring together aging societies in developed countries with children in the devoloping world in need for quality education. A technology enabled win-win-situation. As Val Almond, a volunteer teacher in the project, puts it: “So many children in the world don’t have access to education. But through technology you can get through to the poorest of children.”

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Put more computers outside the classroom

Copyright: www.hole-in-the-wall.com

No, this is not an ATM. This is just a hole in the wall! And the Hole-in-the-Wall project offers a surprisingly fresh perspective on the learning process, breaking the traditional limits of teaching and learning in a school.

The initiative’s founder Sugata Mitra called its approach Minimally Invasive Education to describe how children learn in unsupervised environments. It was derived from a learning experiment he has done in 1999.

Hole-in-The-Wall takes the Learning Station to the playground, employs a unique collaborative learning approach and encourages children to explore, learn and just enjoy.

It can be seen as a ‘Shared Blackboard’ which children in underprivileged communities can collectively own and access, to learn and to explore together. The whole idea is based on the strong belief in the power of collaboration and the natural curiosity of children.

Until today Hole in the Wall Education Limited (HiWEL) set up some 300 ‘learning stations’, covering about 300,000 children in India and several African countries. I think, it is a great idea and I am convinced that it would work not only in developing countries but everywhere in the world. Just put more computers and learning stations outside the classroom!

In a video CNN’s Sara Sidner reports on the Hole-in-the-Wall project linking it to Danny Boyle’s award-winning film Slumdog millionaire. Have a look!

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