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Skype—Make A New Shelf for the Book Room

by Janet Lee Stinson

Teachers often remark that there are never enough texts to go around (true) and the ones that live in the book room are usually out of date and yellow around the edges. The ages of dust in any high school book room could make anyone sneeze! I mean come on! Any book with RUSH carved into the cover should be recycled by now!

 When considering resources available to you right now, do you think beyond the dusty book room into the real world? Of course the Internet offers all things you can imagine but what about texts that live and breathe in real time? Your mother the artist has insights to share about having a vision. Your neighbour who grew up in Colbalt knows a thing or two about how to thrive in tough weather conditions. Skyping in the fascinating people of  our lives can offer a living breathing resource to students that was not possible even 5 years ago.

Find speakers or enlist the help of your students to suggest interview candidates. Ask, “Who is the most fascinating person you know? What lessons could we learn from this person that we could not learn from reading history books?” Have students prepare for each interview by generating questions, researching background information and discussing Skype etiquette.  These real life sessions are very powerful when students practice active listening skills and reflect on the learning afterwards.

With Skype on your resource shelf, the subjects are current, free and of course endless.

 What fascinating person do you know? What message could they bring to your students? Have you used Skype in your classroom? What can you share?


Janet Lee has been an English teacher/Department Chair, Nipissing University Reading Part 3 Instructor, Student Success Literacy Consultant, and Nelson Literacy 7-10 instructional writer and media specialist. Janet Lee recently presented literacy resources at The Great Moon Gathering in Fort Albany, Ontario. She enjoys maintaining her blog This Side of the Mirror-A Journey Through Reflection to communicate with teachers and address current issues in education.


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  • Kathleen Corrigan

    Aviva, I agree. There are so many options now. I would also love to explore the possibilities inherent in using a “conference” style with something like a google hang out. By drawing in an “expert” plus students from more than one classroom diverse ideas might be explored.

  • Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca)

    Janet Lee, I think that you make a wonderful point here! Using Skype in the classroom is a great way to make the learning real and current for the students. This year, I used Skype to get a graphic novelist to speak to us about how to creates his characters. I’ve also arranged for a Skype call with a First Nations’ school, where students that live on a reserve are going to share information about their lives with us as part of our Social Studies unit on Aboriginal Peoples. Yes, we’ve read lots of information online and in the textbook, but nothing really compares to speaking to real people.

    Bandwidth can sometimes be a problem though. While I love using Skype in the classroom, it’s a pain when the technology doesn’t cooperate. This year, my students started using Today’sMeet, Edmodo, and Twitter to talk to other students, teachers, and experts about a variety of topics. These tools don’t allow for face-to-face contact, but they are great for students that are hesitant to talk in class, but eager to share online. I think a differentiated approach is always a good thing!