Skype in the Classroom – A Free Virtual Connection Community!

Rebecca KeelingClassroom Ideas, Tutorials

Skype in the Classroom Website header

Skype in the Classroom is an online community from Microsoft that provides free virtual field trips, guest speakers and class collaborations with other educators and professionals. As staff this year you already have an Office 365 account which you can use to sign in to start looking at different opportunities! Using Skype in the Classroom, we have connected with different places around the world, such as National Park Rangers, museum experts in New York, Colorado and Ontario, and even scientists in Antarctica! (Thank you to the teachers and schools that have helped us explore this resource!)

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Site Overview:

Website Address: Skype in the Classroom

(Please note: Microsoft has upgraded the look of this site for those have used it previously).

Skype in the Classroom

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Skype in the Classroom Virtual Field Trip sample

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Five different types of connections (Pic 1):
  • Virtual Field Trips – These are prepared visits to a location (ie Museum, historical spot, etc) that are created by the provider. (We have previously visited the Canadian Canoe Museum, the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, the NC Natural History Museum, the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, and SANCCOB in South Africa.)
  • Skype Lessons – Similar to virtual field trips, these are focused lessons led by the speaker about a particular topic.
  • Skype Collaborations – Connect with another classroom around the world to work together on a project or activity.
  • Mystery Skype – Students will call another classroom/expert and guess something using only “yes” or “no” questions. Commonly they are guessing each other’s location but the game has evolved to include guessing Mystery Animals and Numbers. (We have played against Alaska, Illinois and Nebraska locally; we played against Argentina and New Zealand internationally!)
  • Guest Speakers – The speaker will talk with your class about a prearranged topic. Think of them as experts for your students to connect with and ask questions. (We have talked with veterans at the Livingston War Museum as well as National Park Rangers from Yellowstone and Denali.)
Searching tips:
  • Basic Browsing: Choose the type of connection you would like. Generally the connections will be sorted by topic (you can click “More” in the upper right of each topic to see all options).
  • Filter Searches (Pic 3): There should be a blue banner that offers the option to “Search by subject, age group & location” – Click the purple “Filter by” box to narrow your options. (When searching for something specific this can be helpful; I recommend always selecting English as the language.)
    Skype in the Classroom filtering

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  • For both options, click the tile to see more about the connection.
    • Virtual Field Trips and Skype Lessons – Clicking the tile will show you what to expect with each connection (Learning Goals)  including suggested age, language, and presenter name.
    • User Profiles – This will show you information about the user, such as what content they offer, if they have opted in to play Mystery Skype, or have guest speaking opportunities. They also may show you their calendar availability.
    • Tip: Click the heart to save the connection as a favorite!
Making a request:

*Note: You must be logged in to request a connection.*

Skype in the Classroom

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Depending on the connection type, you will click on a purple box to register or request the connection. The connection might only be offered during specific times or they could not have any preselected times. (Note: While you can register for many connections you can only have up to two scheduled per day.)

  • Specific times (Pic 4) – You will choose the date and time block you would like. Generally, these are by hour (ex: 9:00-10:00 am; this will be converted to your time zone). There is a spot to add information below to leave a message for the presenter (ex: our class is 5th grade, can we start at 9:10 am EST instead?, etc)
  • No preselected times (Pic 5) – You will fill in a spot below with your message to the presenter. This should include when you are hoping to connect (I have found giving a range can help), as well as your grade and any other special requests.
    Skype in the Classroom

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After submitting a request:
  • Providers are supposed to contact you within three business days with an acceptance or denial. (I err on the side of giving more time to presenters; since all of these connections are free I try to give as much time as I can to them to accommodate my request.)
  • Check your email. They will contact you through the email you used to register your account.
  • If your request is declined, you will not be able to request the same date and time from that provider again. (So be careful when you are selecting dates and times.)

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Skype in the Classroom can offer some amazing ways to connect with the world and enhance your students’ learning! If you would like to learn more, please contact your Instructional Technology Coaches.