So, you're ready to Skype?


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There's no better way to connect your classroom with the outside world than with this free video call application. There are a few things you'll need to do before you're ready to make that first call, however.

1. Create a Skype account for yourself. Go to http://education.skype.com and sign up, or connect your regular Skype account to the education version. This allows you to search for other educators interestedin setting up classroom exchanges.

2. Put in a tech help request to have the Skype software installed on your computer.

3. Determine if your laptop has a built-in camera and microphone. If not, or if you are using a desktop computer, you'll need a camera (the iPevo document camera works fine for this purpose, or you can use a webcam) and an external microphone attached to your computer.

4. Open up Skype and complete a test call to test your sound.

5. Search for contacts to add to your address book.

If you have not signed up for an ePals account, you might want to consider doing it now. ePals is a free social networking tool for teachers as well as a secure, educational platform for students to communicate with students in other classrooms across the globe as pen pals. Join the community, post a description of a project you're interested in, or search for projects others have posted. This is how you find a class in Japan or Ohio or Brazil to collaborate with! It's the perfect accompaniment to Skype.

6. Once you've found a contact, agree on a date and time to make a test call before going 'live' with a class. During the test call you can experience the quirks of a Skype call (slight delays in speech, freezing of video feed, etc.) and you can learn how to deal with them smoothly.

7. Discuss with your contact how you will conduct the in-class call. What are your objectives? How will students participate? Be sure to develop a protocol for having students take turns speaking, and make sure they approach the camera so that they can be seen by the other class before they speak.

8. Rehearse the session with your class before the actual call. Have them plan what they will say, what questions they will ask, etc. Be sure to address etiquette and expectations for participation.

9. Always have a Plan B. Fire drills happen. So do dropped calls. Be flexible.

What else can you do with Skype?
Check out this list of 50 Awesome Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom