Skype in the Classroom

With all the talk lately about Microsoft's acquisition of Skype, it got me thinking about how we use this communication tool in the classroom.  Of course, educators are always looking for ways to connect what they teach to the 'real world'.  Whether it be bringing in guest speakers, taking our students on field trips or taking virtual trips through the use of the Internet, we are always looking for ways to connect with the outside world and bring meaning to what our students learn.  The use of Skype is an additional tool to help bridge this divide.

Imagine having a remote book talk with an author or collaborating with another classroom on the other side of the world.  The possibilities are really endless.  Looking for where to get started?  Check out 50 Awesome Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom for resources on getting started with Skype and ideas for teachers and parents and finding others using Skype.

Looking to use Skype in a meaningful way that explicitly defines learning objectives at every (pre-during-post) stage of a Skype conference?  Then, look no further than this document shared by educator Silvia Tolisano.

Skype was recently used by teacher Ben Grundy at the Canadian International School in Singapore to communicate with the PIO School in Cambodia as part of a performance arts unit.  Students from each school demonstrated cultural dances to one another and used the technology to create a unique multicultural learning experience.  See all the details here.

Looking for your own opportunities to collaborate?  Take a look at Skype in the classroom to find collaborative projects, like-minded teachers and a wide variety of resources including videos, links and tips.

Check out this video on Skype in the classroom, as reported by Kara Tsuboi, a CNET reporter for CBS Newspath.

Want to get started but don't know where to begin?  Get Skype and check out New to Skype? for everything you need to know to get started and let the communicative learning begin!


As I stated in my previous blog post, as good as Wordle is, it does have limitations.  That's where Tagxedo comes in.  Tagxedo offers all the functionality of Wordle and so much more.  Just how much more?  Well, unlike Wordle, the user/creator is presented with a number of publishing options including saving the Tagxedo in both .jpg and .png formats in various sizes ranging from 125kb-16 mb and in a number of different formats including thumbnails and .html.  There's also the ability to publish to the web in a number of different formats and embed a Tagxedo player into a web site, blog etc.  All of these options are currently free in the beta version of this web app but may become premium options that will only be available in the future for a fee.

Ada Lovelace - Computer Pioneer

The best feature of Tagxedo is that it allows you to organize your words or tags in order to create an image or shape.  This is much better than Wordle,  which only allows your words to be organized horizontally, vertically or any which way.  In creating an image with words, you can select an image from the Shapes menu or best of all, you can choose to upload your own image .  A word of advice:  In selecting an image, choose one that does not have to much detail, like a clip art type of image.

But, wait a minute. I've kind of put the cart in front of the horse here.  You'll need to decide what the subject of your Tagxedo will be.    You could create a Tagxedo based on the content from a web site, your tweets, blogs or your tags using your ID.  Other ideas include using a news story or an RSS feed.  Looking for something more educational ?  How about a biography, movie reviews, book reviews or a novel character/plot analysis.    Want even more ideas?  Check out the link to 101 Ways to Use Tagxedo.  Ideas featured on this page include using your name to create a Tagxedo or using the lyrics from a song.  They're are tons of other great ideas as well.

Sample - student work

 Once you have selected your words and decided on a shape/image, you can use a number of different tools to modify the look and feel of your work.  These include changing the color, theme, font, orientation and layout.  The possibilities are truly endless.  Once you've finished your product, you can save it locally in the different sizes and formats I mentioned earlier or you can publish your work on the web.  Once again, you've got a number of options for publishing your work to the web including saving it as an image or as an interactive Microsoft Silverlight interactive application ( see example).  Speaking of  Silverlight,  Tagxedo works seamlessly in a Windows environment.  Mac users on the other hand,  will have to download the Microsoft Silverlight Plug-In before they can use Tagxedo. 

Other features of Tagxedo include that it supports a number of languages including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Finally, there's a gallery that's under construction which eventually will allow users to submit their work. According to developer Hardy Leung, the gallery will be, "moderated to make this a kids-friendly place."

So what are you waiting for? Give Tagxedo a try!