Skype has opened up more options for foreign language teachers than practically any other technological advancement of the 21st century. With Skype, I can discuss details of my student exchange program with a partner teacher in Germany in an easier manner than using email or even phone calls. What we are able to discuss and agree upon during a short Skype video call saves time and prevents misunderstandings that occur when using other means of communication.
In addition to using Skype as a logistical, planning tool for exchanges, I am able to bring our German partner school into the classroom. This is a wonderful option for those who are unable to take part in the head-to-head exchange. Through Skype, we can engage in discussions with our friends in Germany, and students benefit greatly from these encounters. Moreover, those taking part in the exchange often use Skype to get to know their hosts before we travel to Germany.
Additionally, I’ve used Skype to prepare a presentation with colleagues from other parts of the country, and I’ve taken part in a Webinar using Skype. For the top prize (an all expenses-paid trip to Germany for four weeks!) of the National German Exam, qualifying students must take part in a Skype interview. Through Skype, the job of the Testing Chairperson has become much easier, and for qualifying students, there is no longer the need to travel across the region to interview. As a tool for professional development and for professional endeavors, Skype is a must-have.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Skype has made communication with loved ones while traveling abroad simple and cost-effective. Now my husband and I can talk daily through Skype and avoid the big phone bills of the past. And with students in daily contact with their parents, the exchange develops an added transparency.