The ability for classrooms to beam in authors, subject experts, and fellow students from around the world has been one of the great advantages afforded by Skype. Commonly used by librarians and other K–12 educators to provide real-time engagement for their students, the service just got better. As of today, existing members of Skype in the classroom or new registrants can use Skype’s Group Video Calling free of charge.
A feature previously available only to paid Skype Premium subscribers, Group Video Calling allows users to connect via Webcam with up to 10 parties. Skype’s blog post details instructions for signing up for free video calling. (Authentication may take 48 hours)
Launched in March 2011, Skype in the classroom offers searchable “lessons,” which enable educators worldwide to connect with each other around various subjects. “My sixth graders from Philadelphia are seven chapters into The Watsons Go to Birmingham,” reads one lesson, for example. “Is your class also reading it? If so, lets plan an activity of some sort. Maybe a book discussion.”