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Skype in the Classroom: Technology Put to Proper Use

by Mike Perlman | September 21, 2011September 21, 2011 5:00 pm PDT

Skype logoEvery once in a blue moon, a story will rise out of the technology cesspool that gives us hope for the future of humanity. I’m not reporting on the latest dual-core Snapdragon or thinnest slate form factor. To me, those fixtures of technology are commodities. Dime-a-dozen updates that will be forgotten tomorrow.

Today I’m talking about education–the most important experience of our lives. In addition to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence curriculum, I believe technology has a definitive place within the classroom when utilized properly. I remember growing up animating underwater scenes with Logo on an Apple IIc, suffering from dysentery on the Oregon Trail and learning about amoebas as they flashed upon the rounded facade of the pixelated green-on-green screen.

But today, technology has a far more profound influence in the classroom. Not only are we converting our youth to laptops and even tablets in some communities, but we’re starting to use technology to communicate across the globe in order to experience multicultural exchanges in real time. And Skype is one of the pioneers of this positive technology.

Head on over to education.skype.com and you’ll see what I mean. According to the Skype blog, a geography class in the United Kingdom was able to communicate with the Massai Tribe in Tanzania. Teachers can start a Skype pen pal program with classes in Afghanistan in order to elucidate the lifestyle of a student growing up in a tumultuous, war-torn environment. Can you imagine that? It’s one thing to hear about it in school–in most cases situations like Afghanistan are swept under the rug in the classroom. But the true visceral learning experience comes from immersing oneself in the reality, and Skype is bringing students closer to that reality.

Skype is enabling teachers to travel with their students without draining the school budget. And could you imagine guest celebrities, authors, artists and other successful icons Skyping your class? If Jim Carrey ever ran an improv class via Skype back when I was in school, I probably would have self-combusted with elation and you wouldn’t be reading this article right now.

Or, how about real advice from one of the Buffalo? What is it like to be a tech journalist? Let’s set it up!

The bottom line is that stories like this make me happy to be in this profession. It gives me hope that the future is not merely the next HTC or the next iWhatever. The future is uniting us globally and sharing our cultures, and that right there is the essence of life.

To put ourselves within the shoes of another–an empathy that, when mastered, can rid the world of violence and destruction. To vanquish the ignorance and share a laugh from 5,000 miles away. To make ourselves better people by using technology to make a friend you never would have known existed. That is where we should be pouring all of our technological efforts.

Thank you, Skype.


Mike Perlman

Mike Perlman grew up in Nintendo Land and developed a relationship with all things electronic and nerdy early on in his childhood career. Today,...

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