Sunday, February 18, 2007

Using Skype with students

By Laura Waters

Over the last 2 months, I have been 'chatting' using Skype computer to computer calling. I have had 7 such sessions.

The purpose of using this technology is to give the EFL language learner practice in listening and speaking to a native speaker of English. The chats are schedules for 1/ 2 hour twice a week. The primary tool we use is the verbal, but often the learner will type a word that she feels I can't understand, or she's not sure how to pronounce, using the text chat feature.

I find that I need/use the text chat option of SKYPE to describe phonetically, (though not IPA) pronunciations - long 'e', I"ll type as eeee, for example. I've had good success with the connection- clear audio - only a couple of times have I had to terminate and place the call again - the line seems to clear up. Once, the text was slow to appear. I've not had a line dropped.

We don't use a web cam. I had a previous experience (social) with one and it really slowed down the response time. I use a headphone/mic headset - inexpensive brand - works well - we both have hi-speed service.

I would like to have a whiteboard and have heard from somewhere (TESL-L perhaps?) that some are using Yahoo. I checked recently MSN and see they have whiteboard and audio, though I haven't tried using it for any purpose.

I know she uses a bilingual dictionary while online. I just sent a couple of websites, asking her to explore/use on her own. I don't know how that has worked for the learner because we are on a hiatus - work/vacation schedules and will resume next month. I think we could use and visit them while on SKYPE, and I"ll try that. I have sent clip art and notes a day or two prior to the chat, to the learner's e-mail address in a WORD document to help with vocab.

I have also sent her WORD files of text and dialogues ahead of the next chat- I don't mean her to practice it, but to use as a visual while we practice - stress, intonation, rhythm etc. Then I have sent .wmv files after the chat with my voice recorded to be used as a model in the event she wants to practice/listen. I have sent WORD documents to her through SKYPE,during the chat, and that worked well - not too long to receive or open, but prefer to do it ahead of time, as during the chat the waiting/anticipation is kind of a distraction.

Hope this is helpful to some. I'd love to hear of others' experiences and ideas for use.


Native English Online said...

Hi, I'm Peter and began using Skype for remote English tuition last year while teaching Buisness English in Tuscany. I also used Video Conferencing (iChat and iVisit are servicable) which I think adds an extra dimension when connection speed permits. Seeing is believing and helps in developing trust in a virtual relationship.

The feedback encouraged me to start developing (still in Beta) to promote the use of Voip and VC as a tuition service with global reach.

Leaving Skype in SkypeMe mode does bring prospects through the door and I now have contacts in China, Japan, Brazil, Italy, Turkey who pop up from time to time to chat.

New 'sense of community' building apps such as Chatbots (A.L.I.C.E), Google Earth (students love the idea that you can see exactly where they live), Vlogs and Podcasts offer exciting possibilities to teachers and students who can handle the technology. They certainly challenge the humble teacher turned web developer. Every day brings its new distractions. I may not be earning from my efforts yet but WOW am I having fun!

SkypeMe - I'd love to talk with you:)

Skype - NativeEnglishOnline
Email -
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Charles Bowen said...

Peter, do you know of any chatbots like ALICE that you can use with Skype? I'm looking for something that I can use with an existing chat program.

shelly johnson said...

Skype also offers Skypecasts. You can have dozens of people Skyping at the same time.

It's great. I've used it.