Skype (www.skype.com) is a type of technology known as “voice over Internet protocol” or VoIP. Simply put, VoIP allows you to use your computer like a telephone. Skype was created in 2003 and is one of the more popular VoIP products with an estimated 250 million accounts worldwide. It is available in 28 languages. Skype is owned by eBay. It can be used on a variety of operating systems including Windows, Mac and Linux.
You can download Skype for free and talk with other Skype users anywhere in the world at no cost, using Skype software or by calling a Skype number. With Skype, you can hold a conference call with up to ten users at the same time. However, if you want to call a landline or a cell phone number, charges will apply. You can purchase a variety of packages from the Skype website.
Although you can use Skype with virtually any microphone/speaker headset combination, many companies sell headsets that are optimized to work with Skype. You can also see who you are talking to on Skype if you use its webcam capabilities.
Skype is not just for personal use, nor is it just a “fun” piece of Internet technology. Both individuals and corporations use Skype for all of their telephone needs. For example, the City of Mississauga uses Skype. For this type of use, Skype can be set up to work through traditional telephone desk sets rather than via the computer.
Skype is also available for mobile devices such as the new “smartphones”, and it is compatible with Windows Mobile. You can even use Skype with a Playstation Portable gaming device.
Technology in Action
A number of respondents in the GO research indicated that they used Skype as part of their online training. In several colleges and university courses, Skype was used as a convenient and inexpensive way for students to contact the course facilitator. Skype was also used for group discussions amongst participants.
Skype could be very helpful for literacy organizations where travel is a concern. For example, literacy practitioners could use Skype to host weekly teaching sessions with a group of learners living in remote communities. Or literacy practitioners could hold meetings with others in their region without having to leave their own agencies. Learners in one agency could talk to learners in the next town, in another province or across the country. Learners could use Skype to practice their telephone skills. Before starting, you might want to read this informative article about using Skype in the classroom: www.wtvi.com/TEKS/05_06_articles/skype-in-the-classroom.html.
MacDonald Youth Services (www.mys.ca/) is a registered charity located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Much of their work is done by volunteers, including “virtual volunteers”. They have produced a YouTube video demonstrating how to use Skype to work with virtual volunteers: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sodMDs7rEEk.
TeacherTube has produced a video showing some possible uses of Skype for teaching.
Additional Resources about Skype
For a good overview of Skype, be sure to check out the article “7 Things You Should Know about Skype”: http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7032.pdf.
For general information about VoIP (Voice over Internet protocol), see: http://communication.howstuffworks.com/ip-telephony.htm.