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More examples of synchronous virtual classroom participation

by Maryalene LaPonsie on April 24, 2013

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Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts are being used to bring online guests and students into the brick-and-mortar classroom.

Following up Sunday’s post about Applications to Facilitate Synchronous Remote Classroom Participation, today we share three more examples and insights into schools and tools for bringing virtual participants into the classroom …

The Internet is making the world a smaller place for everyone, and teachers are discovering how to use the latest video chat applications to break down classroom walls. From hosting guest speakers to creating opportunities for homebound students to have an online education, emerging tech is changing how schools approach learning.

Three of the hottest video chat apps are Skype, FaceTime and Google Hangouts, and here’s a few ways that schools are putting them to use.

Skype
As an early VOIP (voice over IP) provider, Skype has become one of the most popular ways to talk for free over the Internet. Created by European developers in 2003, the app was acquired by Microsoft in 2011.

Skype is free to download and calls to other Skype accounts are free as well. The company operates a Skype in the Classroom website which offers more than 2,700 Skype lesson plans and nearly 800 resources created by teachers as well as organizations including NASA Digital Learning Network, Penguin Books and the British Council.

Teachers can also use Skype to connect with other teachers and classrooms. For example, Herrick Park Elementary School in Tecumseh, Mich. has used the app to help students make global connections. Last year, the second grade class skyped with a class in Chile while third graders used the app to talk with students at a Haitian orphanage.

“Both classes sang songs while on Skype and were able to ask questions to each other,” said parent Jennifer Cornish, who had a son participate in each chat. “It was a great learning experience for my boys and the whole class.”

FaceTime
FaceTime could be described as Apple’s answer to Skype. It is a video chat app that is compatible with Apple devices such as the iPhone, iPod and iPad. Newer devices may come preloaded with FaceTime but for those who need to download the app, it costs a mere 99 cents.

While FaceTime does not offer centralized resources like Skype in the Classroom, teacher forums, blogs and wikis are full of stories regarding how the app is being put to use in the classroom. Examples include allowing parents to remotely view student presentations and bringing in video guest speakers.

Danbury Elementary School in Lakeside-Marblehead, Ohio is taking use of the app one step further. According to the Peninsula News, the school arranged to use FaceTime to allow a preschooler with a rare autoimmune disease to participate in class.

Using an iPad hooked to a SmartBoard, the preschooler can see her classmates and they can see her as they participate together in activities such as singing songs and attending school assemblies. During learning stations, an aide carries the iPad around the class as the stations rotate. In addition to working on school tasks at home, the preschooler uses FaceTime for social interactions to talk with her friends and share details about favorite toys and activities.

Google Hangouts
A relatively new addition to the world of social applications is Google Hangouts. Like Skype and FaceTime, Hangouts offer a free way to video chat, but the service comes with one big advantage. The other services are limited to two participants, but Hangouts allow multiple people to talk at once.

Attached to the social media service Google+, Hangouts were originally envisioned as a way for groups of up to 10 friends to chat together. However, schools quickly saw the potential of Hangouts to facilitate study groups, remote seminars and teacher office hours. In response, Google expanded the number of participants allowed in school sponsored Hangouts to 15.

Hangouts also have an advantage over other videoconferencing options in that they can be broadcast using the Hangouts On Air option. In addition, chat sessions can be uploaded to YouTube to be accessed by other students at a later date.

Perhaps because participants need a Google+ account to access Hangouts, their use seems to be concentrated at the college level. Last fall, Google Students posted a video of Ghetto Film School using the service for its master classes. A subsequent discussion of the video found, among other uses, Hangouts were also being used by geography classes at the University of Alabama to let distance learners sit in on classes. Meanwhile, the University of Michigan reports on its website it has engineering instructors who use the app to hold virtual office hours.

The latest apps are doing more than allowing family and friends to connect with one another. They are also opening up new educational opportunities for students at every level and giving the term online schools a whole new meaning.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Applications to Facilitate Synchronous Remote Classroom Participation
Students in the Cloud – How Google Drive has Nullified Missing Homework Excuses

Preparing Students for the Global Workplace with Collaborative Online International Learning

 

About 

Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing professionally for nearly 15 years. Her work has been featured on FoxBusiness, AOL and MSN Money as well as numerous other sites. Among her areas of expertise are personal finance, marketing and education.

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