Threshold pedagogy and Skype

Yesterday we began to install Skype on the machines in the lab. The thought was that we would make a Skype conference call in th Arabic class and connect with Buthaina in Kuwait. I was planning to record the conference with Audacity. Well that did not seem to work at all. After a half an hour Skype call with Elder Bob, a man I do not even know but whom I have heard on Edtechtalk and as a result now trust with my technological life (!), we tried to change the settings on Audacity but am still able to record only one side of the conversation.

I left work at 6 p.m. with the promise that I would come back to work at 7 p.m. (after feeding my kids) and somehow make Skype connect Buthaina and the class.

And then it struck me… the class was being held in one of our smart classrooms that had a computer and internet access. While the class did their lessons, I installed Skype on the desktop machine, had the audio go out to the surround sound speakers and the audio in come from a USB mike. We were able to have a 90 minute conversation (and text messages in English and Arabic!!!) with Buthaina…students took turns talking but what was great was everyone could hear B talk and as such could offer help to the student when it was time to speak in Arabic.

It worked… and it was truly a solution that I made up while crossing the threshold of the classroom after returning from dinner!

What an amazing experience for our students, and as it turns out, for Buthaina as well. And bless her, she stayed up until 3 a.m. her time to speak with the class!

Will we use Skype on the machines in the lab…absolutely… but first we have to make more amazing connections like we did last night.


Barbara is a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at a small liberal arts college in Maine. Rumor has it this was also her alma mater. She used to work for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for almost 20 years as a teacher and language center director. Prior to these adventures in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to play with her dogs, write, read, swim, do yoga things and making stuff out of clay. To see her online portfolio please click here!

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