Skyping with students

USB phone by Jabra

USB phone by Jabra

This week I am working with my class to learn to use Skype!  Wow, when it works, it is such great software!  But sometimes, it doesn’t work.  I miss having all my students on campus so that I can see them face to face if we have a problem!

So far, our problems seem to be settings and poor connectivity.  When we have been able to switch to smartphone versions of Skype, we do well!  But that doesn’t help if you are trying to bring in a guest speaker and want to display a video call on a large monitor or projector.

I have been experimenting with several ways to conduct phone calls on three different devices.  For sheer ease of use, I like my tablet.  With the built-in microphone and speakers, you really just open it up, launch skype, and talk to it!  On my iPhone, I can use Skype without video.  On my desktop, I have a Jabra DIAL 520 USB phone.  I also have a webcam, but unless you want to speak loudly and be heard down the hall, the USB phone is a better device.  Skype will let you select which device receives the call if you have multiple options on your machine.

I did find out that if you are logged in three times concurrently, there is a little problem picking up. 🙂

I have been a big fan of Skype, both for ease of use and the potential for its use in the classroom.  Last spring I brought in a guest speaker over Skype.  We new that we probably didn’t have adequate bandwidth to do a desktop share, so I downloaded the presentation and video to my tablet.  The speaker connected to us through Skype, audio only, so she provided the narration while I advanced the slides on command.  It worked out very well.  We intend to have more guest speakers next year using Skype.

I am also enjoying meeting my online students over skype.  We have been conversing through text, but having a video call really helps put a face to each student.  I believe I need to do this unit much earlier next time around, because having that personal connection is very important.  And it is fun!