Wednesday, December 06, 2006

There's Skype In My Fishbowl!

Well, okay, actually there's Skype in Anne's fishbowl. Over on Learning and Laptops, Anne has posted about trying to use Skype as an alternative to live blogging as part of her fishbowl discussion technique.
At first it was truly mesmerizing to see how fast they were posting. However, it raised some interesting pedagogical questions regarding depth and quality of insight. My hope of using Skype versus Blogger was to use multiple online conversations with the outer circle in tandem with the inner circle conversations of the fishbowl.

. . . As for me, the verdict is still out on Skype. I am impressed by my students’ abilities with multi-tasking and the quality of conversation available to them through Skype. I agree that it is much faster paced allowing for their conversation to develop as fast as they want; but at the same time, I appreciate it more when they slow down and listen to one another. It was really important to have a conversation with them about the purpose behind Skype and more importantly, behind fishbowl.

. . . Regardless of either using Skype or Blogger, the growth in my students’ learning with the use of these technological pieces and fishbowl has been tremendous. They connect every piece of text we have studied this semester to each other as well as see connections with themselves as learners and with the world around them. They can produce interesting, captivating thoughts and are learning to value one another’s opinions and insights. They are learning and teaching one another!
I was able to watch these classes the first two times they tried this and it was very interesting. The first time they used Skype I, like Anne, felt like they were too excited about Skype and didn't do as good a job at discussing (and learning) as they did when they used Blogger. I also felt like they had more trouble paying attention to the inner circle discussion than they did when they used Blogger. But the second time they did fishbowl with Skype they were simply amazing - I had to keep reminding myself that these were freshmen. You really have to see it in person to get the full effect, but you can get an idea by reading the Skype transcripts that Anne has linked to as part of her post. Also look at the 22 comments on the post (so far) by her students to see their thoughts about Skype, Blogger and fishbowl. It would be be great if you added your comments to the conversation.


  1. I'm a freshmen in Smith's 5th hour class and I think that skype is one of the coolest tools we get to use. It is as close to actual conversation as we can get while still remaining silent and I really like that. However, I do still prefer to be in the inner circle where I can speak.

  2. I'll second that. As I have said before, nothing beats the human machine. Although this is not really true and I dont really even agree with it myself, it is true in conversation. But skype a close second. It is the best substitute I have seen so far, and it has been a resounding success in the classroom.