04/05/2012 05:49 pm ET Updated Apr 05, 2012

Skype In The Classroom: Should Teachers Use Video-Chatting As An Educational Tool?

By Angel Idowu

Angel is a high school reporter for The Mash, a weekly teen publication distributed to Chicagoland high schools.

Many students don’t like sitting in class for hours on end -- lectures can be boring and hard to focus on. Students thrive in many different ways and one of those ways may be in an environment they’re comfortable in. So what if classrooms allowed students to Skype into class rather than actually learn in a classroom with an instructor present? Some schools already do.

Video-chatting allows students to be in a different learning environment, which can benefit them in so many ways. They’d have several different resources at the drop of a hat. Let’s say, for example, a teacher is explaining a theory using context the student may not be familiar with. The student could pull it up on their computer without interrupting the class, use whatever books or other resources they may have in their classroom, or even easily go down the hall and ask a friend explain it to them.

While Skyping in could be beneficial, it also has the potential to cause problems. Because students are provided with the option of live online courses as well as pre-recorded video classes at some schools, they have to be responsible in assuring that they get the information taught in class.

They have to resist the distractions of games, conversations and other things that could keep them from paying attention. If they don’t have enough self-discipline and responsibility, then Skyping into a class won’t benefit them.

A great part of learning is understanding based on ideas and discussion with the rest of the class. But would video lessons (live or pre-recorded) take away from the students’ ability to learn based on discussion? Skyping in would not allow them to do that as much, and they would also lack instructor-guided interaction with other students. Sometimes when students don’t understand things, it’s great to share thoughts and ideas with people sitting around you to gain
better understanding. That can’t be done if the only thing around you is your notebook and computer.

Ultimately, Skyping in on a class can be a great alternative to classroom learning. It provides you with most of what you would get in the classroom and is very beneficial if you have the self-discipline and control to be mature and responsible for your learning experience. It just depends on the type of person you are, and students, instructors and schools should decide whether or not it’s right for them.

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