By Paul Czajak
I had a wonderful experience last week during World Read Aloud Day, when I was able to set up several classroom visits all around the world through Skype in the Classroom. Skype, of course, is the service that allows anyone with a computer to visit by video with anyone else. Skype in the Classroom is a web site run by Skype to allow teachers to easily set up video visits with authors or others from anywhere in the world.
It’s easy to get started. An author creates a profile and sets up a lesson plan. A lesson plan can be something very simple, like reading the book and then answering the students’ questions, or something more elaborate, like a presentation on how a book is made. It is up to the author and what he feels comfortable doing as a lesson. Once the author’s profile is complete, teachers can find it on the site using search terms. If an author fits what the teacher is looking for, the teacher then requests a Skype visit, which the author can either accept or not. If the author accepts the request, the two decide the best time to Skype. And that’s it, easy breezy lemon squeezy!
I am by no means Mr. Computer and I was able to set up five different Skype visits last week. I had one visit with a classroom in Georgia, another with one in Florida, then North Dakota, one in Texas and then I ended the night with a classroom in Jakarta, Indonesia. Now the monetary saving with this is obvious. I was able to travel from one end of the country to the other, then the other side of the world without having to buy a single plane ticket. Pretty cool if you ask me. The exposure that I received as an author was huge, better than any bookmark I had made up and passed out at book signings. And the social experience of doing these visits was priceless. I was able to meet kids whom I would never normally get to meet and answer all their questions, and let me tell you they had some good questions, from what was my favorite book that I wrote, to how did I find the illustrator, to whether or not I have muscles. Granted some of the questions were a little off-topic but they were genuine.
So if you are an author looking to get your name out there, or a teacher looking to find authors or other kinds of guest speakers to visit with your students, Skype in the Classroom is a fun and economical way to make it happen!