Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Skyping Classes

Last year a middle school IEP team approached me with an interesting conundrum.  They were working with a student who was going through some difficulties. Let's call the student Joe.

Joe was dealing with some significant medical issues and had to be homebound for a period of time. He was an accomplished student, and he did not want to miss out on his classes.  Even with home instruction, he was concerned he'd miss out on too much.

That's when the IEP team contacted the AT team.  They asked, "how can we keep Joe involved in our classes"?  The team had been exploring Skype with a few students at two of our high schools. They were working on social skills, with great success.  Now we wondered if we could use Skype in a similar fashion.

We created two gmail accounts, Student 1 and Teacher 1. Then using those accounts we created two Skype accounts by the same names.  Next we assigned two mini-laptops to the project. One was for Joe to use at home, the other went on a cart, and was rolled from class to class by a Teacher-Assistant.

For simplicities sake, the Teacher-Assistant initiated Skype in the morning, and then left it on for the duration of the three classes that Joe needed to participate in.  The Teacher laptop was rolled to the front of the classroom and with the camera on, directed to the teacher and the whiteboard.  Skype allowed Joe to follow along with the lectures and to ask questions of the teacher.

One final addition was made. The teacher was provided with a Bluetooth earbud. This allowed her lecture to be amplified without getting too much ambient noise, and when Joe asked a question, she was able to hear it easily.  In addition, it meant that she was not tied to a microphone cord, and could move about the front of the classroom.

There were the expected technical issues periodically, but overall the experience was a success for Joe, and not too much of a burden for the teaching staff.

What interesting ways have you used Skype or Google Video?


  1. If you have a Prometheus board in the class room, you could probably figure out Howe to display it to the student over Skype.

    1. That is a really good idea Ed. Our district is heavily invested in SmartBoards. SmartBoard offers a product called Bridgit Conferencing Software which facilitates sharing of SmartBoards content back and forth. It is an additional fee though, and we would still have the cost of the laptop for the student. In addition, there are the trade offs video of the teacher versus what's written on the board. Classes where there is heavy board work, it might make sense to transmit the board.