Teachers already use Skype to connect with other classrooms around the globe, bring in guest speakers without asking them to travel, and take virtual field trips. Now, Skype is making it easier for them to do so.
The company launched Skype in the Classroom, a dedicated teacher network, on Tuesday. Using the platform, teachers can create profiles that describe their classes and teaching interests. They can also search a directory of teachers from all over the world by student age range, language and subject.
Since the beta version launched in December, about 4,000 teachers have signed up. Many of them have used the network to coordinate Skype projects with other schools. Teacher Kara Lornejo, for instance, used the directory to find five partner classes for a “weather around the world” unit she was coordinating for her fifth grade class in Missouri.
“We use Skype all the time in my classroom…I always had to find teachers over Twitter or some other resources,” she said in a video about her experience. “Now to know that Skype has their own directory is awesome.”
A “project” tab in the new version of Skype in the Classroom allows users to post and search for projects that, like Lorenjo’s weather project, require collaboration. A map that shows teachers by location is also a new addition to the site.
Accommodating teachers is a natural move for Skype. Several independent sites have already established Skype teacher phone books, class collaboration directories and virtual language exchange programs to accommodate the growing number of educators who are using the videoconferencing platform as a learning tool.
“We saw that growth, and we wanted to find a way to support that community,” Skype spokesperson Jacqueline Botterill says. “There are a number of online platforms that were trying to galvanize those communities, but they’re quite fragmented and disparate, so we’re trying to create one place where teachers can come together.”