In a Technology Enhanced Learning Showcase led by my PGCE trainees last week, I was reminded of the use of Skype in the classroom as a means of bringing experts in for our learners.*
Those of you that read my blog regularly will be aware of my appreciation for teacher expertise in subject content knowledge. Not only should teachers be experts in their content knowledge (CK), more importantly, they should aspire to be experts with pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) (I have written about this in a previous post, if interested). To acquire expertise in PCK takes years, however, it could be asserted that there are many situations where abstract concepts can be made more concrete by experts in particular fields of a domain; those that can share ‘real world’ experiences with learners, as opposed to a teacher’s ‘text book’ understanding.
I have used Skype myself with learners and found it invaluable. Just a couple of examples include:
- When teaching Foundation Degree teaching and learning students about professionalism, specifically in FE, I was able to organise a Skype call with David Russell, CEO of the Education and Training Foundation to answer trainees’ questions about how the organisation supports practitioners with their development. My understanding in this regard was limited at the time.
- When delivering a module on inclusion with trainee teachers, I was able to invite Amjad Ali and Nancy Gedge into the room to.share their views with trainees and answer their specific questions about the subject – something that both have vast experience in.
The opportunity to engage with the depth and breadth of knowledge, skills and experiences is something that I alone could never offer to learners. I am by no means a pioneer in using Skype to bring experts into the room, but in using it, found that my learners thrived.
There are many ways in which you might engage with experts in your subject. Below I have listed a few ideas which might inspire you to try it for yourself in your subject:
The list is not extensive; the only limitation to how you might use Skype is your imagination.
Using Skype or similar packages does not come without problems from time to time, however. For example, trying to download Skype software onto college systems was like asking the IT technicians to work on Christmas day – a bit of a chore. Moreover, you have to rely on a reasonably good internet connection and of course have a microphone and camera, which not all school/college computers have. Putting this to one side, I’d say from time to time, the opportunity outweighs the cost.