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