Connect, Create, Collaborate: Skyping Them In

As someone who’s not even really into talking on the phone, I didn’t think I would like Skype. It seemed a little Jetsons-y, a video phone, and would demand entirely too much attention to my body language and apparel, or so I believed five years ago. But I actually discovered what I missing from telephonic conversation was that visual component. I was a quick convert.

Videocalling, not just for the Jetsons

Professionally, I use Skype almost weekly, for writing collaboration, brainstorming with colleagues, bringing in experts and writers (thanks to the fabulous Skype-an-author network created by Sarah Chauncey and Mona Kirby, and the generous authors who conduct meet-the-author visits!), even connecting with a father live from Afghanistan where he was stationed one Veteran’s Day.

Skype can make the extraordinary possible, but it also makes the workaday more interesting. I’ve participated in Skyped committee meetings, Skyped in for job interviews, used it to guest-lecture at library school classes, I had author Myra McEntire Skype into an Alabama Library Association conference session this spring (below). Just two weeks ago, I used Skype to connect with librarians in the school district I left this summer for some long-promised professional development on cataloging. It was terrific to see all those familiar faces.

I have become quite the evangelist, introducing people to Skype, including those in an older demographic or the less tech-confident. It’s easy to “get” Skype and want to see everyone after you see how easy it is.

Videocalling may seem like a non-brainer for young people, but I’ve found surprisingly tech-savvy teens don’t know about it. “There’s a free version of facetime,” I heard one student tell another, “And you don’t even have to have an iPhone to use it.” And I have set up classroom Skypes with students who initially didn’t get that they were connecting to a remote place. “Ohio? Really?”

When I took the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards assessment, I drew a technology question about planning for and setting up an IVC lab. I just had to spin my answer to ask why you would want to invest in all that hardware when you could simply Skype? And buy some books with all that money you’ve saved on equipment, so you can Skype the authors in…

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