Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Skype in the Classroom with Shaunda Kennedy Wenger

Kids love meeting authors, no doubt about it. That's great, because authors can serve as valuable tools for teachers by serving as exciting mentors for their language arts curriculum. But in today’s classrooms, shrinking budgets are making it more and more difficult for schools to bring authors on campus to meet and workshop with students. However, technologies like Skype are emerging as a bridge to help keep students and authors connected in the classroom.

When I Skyped with second and third grade classrooms in New Hampshire last year, it was easy. Neither I nor the students had to stray far from our home bases. The students gathered in their classroom, and I sat down at my office computer. Although this was a first time experience for both the hosting teacher and me, we both managed to pull it off without a hitch.

Today, I'll give a list of the tools that are needed by the hosting teacher. Get ready to write the following list down. You may be amazed at how simple it is to get an author visit going, especially when you realize your classroom already possesses most of the tools you need. You'll need:

1.      Internet access
2.      A desktop computer or laptop
3.      A webcam or document camera
4.      A Skype account which you create on your own for free at Skype.com from the computer you will be using. This will entail coming up with a user name that an author or another classroom will use to "call" you when it is time to connect via your computers. Make sure you exchange user names with each other prior to the visit so that you can each go into your Skype account and add the other's user name as a contact prior to the visit.
5.      A digital projector that will project the classroom computer onto a large screen that all the students will be able to view.
6.      Sound/Speakers.

That's it! Don't forget to send copy or two of your books, of course. It will help your students get more out of the visit if they are familiar with the stories that the guest author has written.

Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon - Making Connections for the Classroom (for both author and teacher).

Shaunda Kennedy Wenger is author of two middle-grade novels, The Ghost in Me and Reality Bites, Tales of a Half-Vampire, as well as an award-winning chapter book, Little Red Riding Hood, Into the Forest Again. She blogs at ShaundaWenger.BlogSpot.com


  1. This is something I'm keen to do, so I'm definitely taking notes. Luckily I have family to practice Skyping with.

    Thanks for joining us at the Blood-Red Pencil today, Shaunda.

  2. I may have to clean up my office a bit so I look more professional, and not like a junk collector, if I ever do this. (smile) What a great way to communicate, though. Saves so much in terms of travel, etc.

  3. What a stunning idea, Shauna! This is a great way to overcome budgetary constraints in so many school systems while providing an extraordinary learning experience for the students. Doing it for the same class more than once would no doubt more than double the advantage for the youngsters because, once they see how it works, they can come up with questions to help them better apply what you are sharing with them.

    Would it be possible -- with the teacher's prior approval -- to suggest a short assignment that the kids can do and a discussion of their story ideas that might help ignite their creativity? This sounds like great fun, and immediate application, along with encouragement from a pro, might go a long way in helping them to retain the skills and points you are sharing. I'd actually love trying it! WOW!

  4. Wouldn't it be the school that has to have the digital projector?

    Thanks for all the information on doing virtual classroom visits. Very interesting.

  5. Skype is great for author "visits." But it's something I've avoided, partly for the same reasons as Maryann and partly because I'm afraid of what I look like!(same with TV appearances)LOL. But I think I'll have to get over that and do it one day in the near future.

  6. What great comments! Thanks so much to the Blood Red Pencil for sharing my post.

    For those that are camera shy, why not dress in "character" for your book? I always find it's easier if I believe I'm projecting myself as someone else, rather than me. Plus, it may be an added element of fun.

    On the spot writing assignments (group or individual) are actually very successful, Linda, especially in an author workshop. I've found the creativity flows, and the students are definitely encouraged with the author there to guide them.

    You could incorporate this assignment in a number of ways. Prior to or During the workshop with the kids finishing it. The author might be able to check back in on another visit to see what the kids wrote and to offer encouragement and more ideas.

    The students I visited with actually memorized the repeating fun phrase in my book, and sang it to me over Skype, and showed me pics that they had colored to go with the book as well prior to the visit. It was fun.

  7. Thanks for being here, Shaunda. (Lovely winter author photo!)

    A great application for the adult crowd, if your novel inspires such discussion, is to Skype with book clubs.

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  9. I don't have a classroom, but one of these days, I must try Skype!

    Morgan Mandel


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