Improving our Skype calls

Having now had two Skype calls, one to an individual student in Connecticut, USA and the other to a class in the Comox Valley, Canada, the students had a round robin discussion about ways we could improve our calls. We looked at four major areas.  Below are their suggestions.

Setting up equipment

  • If using a webcam connected to a laptop then displayed on a smartboard, have the webcam beside the board, so the speaker can see both the camera and the class they are speaking to.
  • Have a chair near the microphone for speakers to sit on.
  • Have the webcam on eye-level with the speaker so they don’t have to look up or down at the webcam, which will distort the view of the class watching.
  • Set up the desks of those students not at the microphone, so they can still be seen by the class you are speaking to.

Using the microphone

  • Speak clearly and try to slow down your normal speech – it takes a while to work out some accents.
  • Speak fluently with no small talk or swearing.  Try not to use language that is only from your country unless you explain the meaning to your viewers.
  • When it is your turn to talk, make sure you know what you are going to talk about.  Try to explain rather than give a one or two word answer.
  • Show confidence when speaking – this might mean a few rehearsals for some students.
  • If using a desk microphone, hold it straight and speak straight into it, not swinging it side to side.

Being in the audience

  • Be quiet when someone is speaking on the microphone from either end of the conversation.
  • One person at a time speaking in the room at the microphone.
  • Listen attentively when you are not the speaker, as you might know the answer to the question being asked by the other class.
  • Don’t sit friends near each other as they will tend to distract each other when not the speaker.
  • Sit where you can see and hear the conversation but where it is also easy to get up and go to the microphone.

What will we talk about?

  • Have some interesting questions ready.
  • Research the place where you are making the Skype call to – ask questions relating to your research.
  • Have an order in which students will speak and practise your talks.
  • Have some posters and pictures you can show about your own country.
  • Have a guess what questions they might ask and be prepared – this means knowing a lot about your own country and state/province.
  • Try to have some contact beforehand through a blog with questions and comments to help guide the conversation and prepare for the Skype.

The following were some questions my students thought they could ask …

  • What’s the weather like?
  • What’s the time there?
  • Would you ever want to come to Tasmania?
  • What do you celebrate?
  • What is the population there?
  • What’s your coat of arms look like?
  • What does the flag look like?

Of course, we also talked about other things like school uniforms, animals, subjects at school and accents. One of my students, Laura, also wrote her post about the Skype call.

Original image: ‘Cantante


by: Julián Rodriguez Orihuela

Released under an Attribution License


  1. loisath Said,

    December 20, 2008@ 8:03 pm      

    What good advice. I am hoping to do some video conferencing next year and this blog is very practical for someone starting out like me. Thank you :-)

  2. Pam Thompson Said,

    December 22, 2008@ 3:11 pm      

    Great advice Sue. Haven’t tried Skype yet, but hoping to give it a go with my new class in my new school in 2009.

  3. Simon Brown Said,

    December 23, 2008@ 5:15 pm      

    Sue, thanks for the tips. I’m planning web conferences with employers and students each month next year, and I’d wondered about some of the problems you’ve discussed here.

  4. dogtrax Said,

    December 23, 2008@ 7:56 pm      

    These are great tips.
    Thanks for reflecting and sharing out.

  5. mike Said,

    December 24, 2008@ 1:27 am      

    Thanks for the tips. I want to use Skype in my classroom. Do you have any advice on how to find international classrooms to connect to? I am the United States.

  6. Morgan Said,

    December 31, 2008@ 11:12 am      

    I like the tips. They are very true and helpful. I have Skype to talk to my international friends, so I know what it’s like to have to talk slow and clear so they can understand me.

  7. JoNelle Gardner Said,

    January 4, 2009@ 1:50 pm      

    Great post – thanks for documenting these details! My elementary students also like to ask about animals (largest/smallest, commonly seen), sports, and outdoor activities.

  8. Brayden Said,

    January 8, 2009@ 5:44 am      

    Hi Mis.w
    i really haft to in prov on my calls to because i hav it at home.
    and were are having a skyp call inntwo weeks
    and good advice

  9. Whitney Mudge Said,

    January 31, 2009@ 5:16 am      

    These are some great tips! I am still in college but the closer I get to going into teacher the more ideas I need(Especially using technology in the classroom). Since it is such a big part of our society its important for me know know how to integrate it in into my classroom. Thanks!

  10. Chrissy Said,

    February 24, 2009@ 2:06 am      

    We usually do these things, but unfortunatley it is the other classes that we are collaboration with that don’t, and even if they do there is always something messed up with the signal. It almost never worked!

  11. Flug Bangkok Said,

    March 17, 2009@ 9:02 pm      

    Very good advice. Hopefully more students are going to use skype to communicate with other students all over the world. I think it will become more and more important to integrate technology into the classroom. Your statements will help many to do this.

  12. Randy Hilgers Said,

    June 5, 2009@ 10:58 am      

    Great comments.

    I would add … don’t move around behind the video or try to move as little as possible as high motion usually slows down the computer and frame rates of the video

  13. Michelle N Said,

    October 25, 2009@ 7:36 am      

    Thank you for these helpful tips. Can anyone recommend a good microphone to use, or will any usb mic do the job?


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  6. The Complete Educator’s Guide to Using Skype effectively in the classroom | The Edublogger

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