Guest blog by Stacey Ryan, USD 385 Andover Schools, classroom teacher in Andover, Kansas
It's no secret that the best and most impactful learning happens when student engagement is high. For years, Skype has been a central part of engaging students and making real-world connections in our class. Over the last year, Sway and Snip have also become an integral part of our class and have had a giant impact on both student engagement and learning.
For teachers looking to increase student engagement, I can't think of an easier way than through the use of Skype in the Classroom. Using Skype eliminates the student question of "When are we ever going to use this?" Skype can be used to bring in experts that promote real-world learning, to connect students with other classes around the world, and act as a catalyst to Project/Problem Based Learning and global learning, among many other ways. In the words of my friend Kelly Spector, school librarian, "If you can dream it, chances are you can skype it."
Students learn from every Skype experience. They increase communication skills, confidence, tolerance and empathy. They learn that no matter how near or far someone is, we all have commonalities, and that what they can accomplish is far greater by working and collaborating together. Skype can be used as a catalyst for empowering students to make a positive impact in the world by applying what they are learning in school to real-world solutions to problems, such as providing clean water to kids in Africa and impacting local communities through food drives.
Snip is a new screen casting tool that has helped me more effectively meet the needs of my students. I've been using the in-class flip model for the last two years, but until this year I primarily used videos created by others. I've been looking for the right tool to develop my own, and Snip has been the perfect solution.
With Snip, I am able to create my own instructional videos and share them with students in less time than I used to spend just searching for the "right' videos to share from YouTube. I love how easy it is to create the videos and students love that they can learn from me, anytime and anywhere- we often joke that they can have me at their family dinners anytime because of the Snip videos! Using Snip is also the ideal solution for when there is a substitute teacher- even when I have to be out of the classroom, Snip allows my students to continue to move forward with their learning as if I were there.
Sway is another one of those tools that simplifies life for students and teachers. When I first shared Sway with students (which took about 5 minutes to demo), their jaws dropped…and then they jumped right in to start creating. One reason we love Sway is because we are able to create impressive presentations, quickly. Sway allows students to focus more on their ideas and content rather than being distracted by the extras (graphics, animations, etc.), and it has everything they need all in one platform. Sway also has a collaborative feature that helps students team up to create together, without having to be in the same room. This is a powerful way to collaborate with our Skype friends in classrooms around the world so we can continue to learn together.
I love to embed Snips into Sways and share the web link with students and parents. It's an ideal way to increase the school-home connection, build classroom community, and engage parents and students both during and outside of school.
Not only do of these tools make life easier for teachers (3 cheers for time-savers!), they can be used seamlessly together to create amazing learning experiences for kids.
Connect with Stacey Ryan on the Microsoft educator community