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English teachers in Paris Message Board › Teachers' November get-togther by Skype

Teachers' November get-togther by Skype

Sean L.
user 6134483
Berlin, DE
Post #: 143
Apologies for this tardy write-up. I hope this covers the main points that we discussed & discovered last week. If you have anything to add or correct, please do so.

Equally, even if you couldn't make the event, please add comments if you have experience of these applications, and correct me if I am talking nonsense.

I'm going to assume a certain knowledge of what Skype is. I'll just add that it is free to use between people who have registered with Skype. Registering with Skype is free. You will have to add credit & pay for certain services such as calling telephone numbers (rather than other Skype users on their PC).

Doris, Nick, Amanda, Caroline, Duncan, Sean

The purpose was to simulate using remote-meeting tools to conduct an ELT lesson. Before the event we agreed to use Skype as most people were familiar with it. In the days leading up to the meeting I asked people to "contact" me via Skype, and I added them to a group in Skype. To start the meeting I simply clicked on the group icon and the participants answered on their own computers / phones.

Note - at least one person has to have a "premium" account in order for a group meeting to take place. It costs around 4 Euros a month and includes free calls to a country of your choice from a list (mobile and/or fixed-line according to the country).

The quality of the audio and video, for me, was good - fine for an English lesson. I know that Duncan had some connection issues but I believe he was using a hand-held device? During the call of 1 hour I think one other person was briefly disconnected - but that's what happens when you try to play Angry Birds at the same time.*

For those of you who looked at this solution a year ago, it appears that there have been improvements in response times and in features.

* Noone was playing games at the same time, but there was some Sauvignon Blanc and Berliner Pilsner being consumed.

The extra functionality, compared to a telephone call, amounts to this:
- Video. Obviously communication is a little easier, but then you can't conduct your lesson in your pyjamas. Swings and roundabouts.
- Messaging. Very useful little tool for spelling words, websites etc.
- Sending files. I was not aware how easy and useful this was. If you want to send your student(s) a word-processing file, for example, it's quick and handy. They do not have to open another window to access their email to find it. One participant said that in her experience Skype can handle larger files than standard email.
- Sharing screens. This was also relatively easy, although one participant was not able to grow the shared screen to a readable size. So this might be something to check with a student during the first lesson, or even in advance. The benefits are obvious: you can show a video, verb chart, an image to discuss etc. Your student can share an email or document that they are struggling to understand.
- Sharing screens and other functionality allows you to play hangman and other educational games. In fact, further suggestions for games would be welcome.
- It's possible for your trainee(s) to throw their screen up onto a projector so that you can teach to a class of many!
- If you manage to organise a group lesson, the problem of cancellations is reduced.
- It seems to be possible for you or your trainee(s) to record the lesson using the computer. This way it can be watched back for teacher improvement or to help the trainees.

Other options.
These alternatives were mentioned: GoTo Meeting, Google Hangout, WebEx,
There was limited experience of these applications but they all seem to work in a similar way: you have to register, group meetings are possible, some features are free and some you pay for. GoTo Meeting may be more geared towards corporate clients and I think there's a monthly fee. For Google Hangout you need a Google account.

Microsoft 365 was also mentioned, but more in connection with sharing documents I think.

Things to check before setting up a Skype lesson with a paying punter.
Check that one participant has a premium account if it's a group call.
Maybe check that screen sharing works - you may need to use documents with a large font size.
Practice a Skype meeting with your Mum.
Check there's enough light for your image and don't have a Pirelli calendar or similar hanging on the wall behind you.
If your trainee is in an open plan office situation, they might want to invest in some headphones.

I think that's it.

Please feel free to complete and complement!

Cheers, Sean
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