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Skype me in, Scottie… June 14, 2007

Posted by Joselyn Todd in Educational Technology.

VoIP, or Voice Over Internet Protocol, is a way to basically place a phone or conference call over the internet. It is not a new type of application but instead one that is becoming mainstream- certainly for teens who wish to chat or talk to their friends. I thought that in today’s blog I might run through the various VoIP applications and discuss how they might be used in the classroom, one’s professional life outside the classroom, and personally. The image below show a graphic of how VoIP works:

“Voice over IP.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 10 Jun 2007, 02:26 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 14 Jun 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Voice_over_IP&oldid=137165018>.

Though there are numerous VoIP apps in the web-o-sphere, three have risen to the top: Skype, Gizmo, and iChat. I initially used Gizmo as it was an open source app (I am an open source fan!), and it was the first app. that allowed me to record my conversations. In fact, the podcast on this bog with Caroline McCullen was recorded using Gizmo. I just called her on the landline in her office and then using my Gizmo app., I recorded the audio and later edited it. Now I use Skype as it is not so arguably the most widely used VoIP application. It is free to download (like Gizmo), now allows video conferencing with one other connection (person), allows one to record the session via a third party application that is built into the platform, and it also allows one to have conference calls with a limited number of connections (people). Skype has become so popular that many people are dropping their landline accounts and purchasing Skype head sets and hand sets from RadioShack and Walmart. The third application, iChat works only on the Mac OS but has many nice features. It does require a mac and a .mac account, but allows audio and video calls like Skype and Gizmo. In the new Mac OS to come out this fall, it will have the added feature that you can actually show/share your desktop with the person you are talking with on iChat. Wow! Take note that with all of these apps. you can only call someone who has the same app. running on their machine for it to be completely FREE. For one to call using a VoIP client to a landline there is usually a very small charge. The key here is to get all of your friends, family, and even students to get the free clients on their computers.

I currently use Skype in my classroom, in my work life outside the classroom, and for personal use. In terms of personal use, I often call my parents using Skype and take them on what I call Skype tours. As I live in North Carolina and they live in Illinois, I cart my laptop (built in webcam and connected via the wireless network in my house) around the house and yard to show them my garden, my pets, me :), etc. They love it as we feel more connected through video.

In the classroom I have used Skype for various purposes. Several weeks ago I “Skyped” in a expert in ed. tech from New York City into my classroom to observe and talk to my students who were working through their robotics unit and building their robotics wikis. It was a valuable experience for all to share their experiences with the expert that we “beamed” in. Again, I just attached a microphone up to my laptop (built in webcam and connected via the wireless network in the school) and our expert was able to see us and the students were able to talk to her. I connected the audio jack on my computer up to my speakers so that the students could easily hear her. As well, my students have used Skype to create podcasts, and in fact, many of the podcast in our Podcasts from the Heart Project were created with Skype.

In my professional life outside of the classroom I have used Skype predominately to record audio for podcasts (as described above with Caroline McCullen). Just yesterday I used it for a different purpose. I am teaching a camp this summer and my camp assistant is a gifted and talented individual with excellent programming skills and teaching skills (hard to believe these have come in the same package!) We conducted a video conference and discussed the camp while editing the wiki we are collaboratively developing for the camp. We also shared files as Skype allows one to transfer files from one computer to another. So while we were talking, we transferred a PowerPoint presentation as well as a image of a plot of land in Second Life 🙂 .

Oral histories, podcasts, audio for vodcasts or video presentations, pen pals as well as Skype pals? The sky is the limit- Skype me in, Scottie. What ideas do you have? What have you tried in the classroom?



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