Picking Up From Where We Left Off or How Skype Eliminated Distance

Skype proved a great tool for our learning (Image taken from http://www.skype.com)

Before I get to the point of this post, I need to say two things:

– A great number of posts and articles have been written about teaching with Skype, but this experience was so helpful and eye-opening for me that I feel the need to share it : )

– For some who might not know, I used to have a school in Greece and had to leave my wonderful students behind when I moved to Switzerland.

So here goes…

Vassilis is a wonderful person and student that my sister first and (a little bit later) I have taught ever since he was eight. (He is now…gulp – twenty-three!) He is a graduate student of the Business and Economics University of Athens, Greece, in the Department of Informatics. We have kept in touch even after I left (as with a great number of our students) and one day he was telling me that he wants to do a post-graduate abroad so he needed IELTS and that he missed our lessons together. We talked about it and in the midst of nostalgia for our lessons with him in the past I blurted out, “I can teach you if you like.” “How?” he asked. I had to think fast. “Via Skype.” “Do you think it’s gonna work?” “We can try and see!” I answered.

So, that’s how we started : )

How can you use Skype?

– The video feature is great, but not that necessary. It is wonderful to see your student’s face, expressions and feel like you are in the same room with them, but with Vassilis we rarely used it. Perhaps at the beginning of the lesson it makes the lesson more personal – it is great to see each other!

– It was mainly useful for us for the audio, and you can practise speaking extensively with the student – with Vassilis, I listened to him, corrected him on the spot when needed and used the chat box on the bottom right of the Skype screen to write notes for him, or synonyms to vocabulary he used.

The chat box: It can be used as a virtual blackboard to write simple notes, which you can hand over to the student simply by pressing Enter. Using the Send File feature (which you can find on the button with the plus sign) you can share PDF or other files, pictures if you are doing picture description with your students – they open the files and the conversation goes on while various things are done in the meantime. Sometimes I immediately shared files with Vassilis if I felt I had to give him more material on something. Emoticons can also be used for reinforcement!

– Sure, there can be tech glitches (choppy sound or video, connection cuts out and so on) but investing in a good internet connection is one of the things I have never looked back on for all it has to offer. Or simply enough, you can just hang up and call again! It usually works.

Classrooms can Skype into each other! (Image taken from http://www.skype.com)

Skype can be used in so many more ways in education and I am looking forward to using it even more! I have also included some fantastic posts on using Skype below.

If any of you have written a post on teaching with Skype, I will be very happy to include a link to your blog here. If you have used any more features of Skype I do not have here (and I am sure there are lots more!) please let me know. I’d love to learn, as I am sure I can use more features in the future and make use of its full potential!