University of Wisconsin–Madison

11.20.15: Skype with Andrew Irving

Andrew IrvingAndrew Irving from French and Italian shared how he used Skype to connect students to experts across the world. This type of activity can also be done with Google Hangouts, Blackboard Collaborate, and, so we explored alternative tools as well.

Notes • Activity Sheet

Andrew’s Skype story


  • Have a really detailed script and plan for the video conferencing session so that all parties know the goal and the plan.
  • Even after doing a dry run, be prepared for technology not to work.
  • Always have a Plan B (what if I get hit by a bus) –  ended up using FaceTime; consider Google Unhangout
  • Have a pedagogical Plan B, too – “while we’re trying to fix the tech, students can do this pre-planned activity.”
  • Consider the level of participation of all the students. Do you have a plan for this? Consider how you will mic the students so they can be heard from the other end. Consider passing around an iPod Touch / iPad on a selfie stick that is dialed in to the video call. Or have multiple breakout rooms.
  • The biggest pedagogical highlight from what Andrew did with the Skype assignment in his class was: It was a REAL event. They built up to it a lot in class and with assignments before the event, so the students were really prepared to have a good experience during the live interview. They were talking with real people, who didn’t even know how to talk to language learners. It was a real writing competition, and they really got published.
  • Students praised this real world experience in course evals.
  • Instructor would not replace the video conference with only a voice-only call.
  • Keep in mind that timezone differences could make synchronous connections difficult to schedule.
  • Lots of unexpected people on the other end made for an unscripted but very authentic conversation during the video call.

Skype in the classroom

Please contribute your own thoughts and questions to this collaborative notes page , before, during, or after the session. We will use these notes and your questions to guide the discussion at the Active Teaching Chat next Monday, from 11:30am-12:30pm in WID.

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