Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Can Skype Connect Students with Authors?

Kids love meeting authors, no doubt about it. And authors love to meet the young readers who enjoy their books. After all, making connections are at the heart of writing and reading-- both emotionally and intellectually within ourselves through personal growth, and socially with others through discussion and sharing. But after attending a recent librarians' meeting as a guest presenter, it became apparent that with today's realities of shrinking budgets, schools are finding it more and more difficult to bring in authors to meet and workshop with students. (See the article about that meeting here.)

However, I also know from experience that technologies like Skype may be an emerging bridge to help keep students and authors connected in the classroom, where authors can serve as exciting mentors for language arts curriculum. What's even better is that for schools that already have internet access, video-chat via computer-to-computer through Skype is a free service. Even better, it's easy to use.

When I skyped with second and third grade classes in NH, neither one of us strayed far from our home bases. The students gathered in their own classroom, and I sat down at my computer in UT. This was a first time experience for both the hosting teacher and myself, and we both managed to pull it off without a hitch. What's more, the students LOVED it!

This is the first post on a series I'll be writing for authors and teachers that would like to connect in the classroom, or parents who would like to help facilitate the process. Today, I'll give a list of the tools and preparation that is needed from the hosting teacher. Get ready to write the following list down,... or not! You may be amazed at how simple it is to get an author visit going. Plus, your school or classroom probably already has all the tools you need.

1. Internet access

2. A computer or laptop

3. A webcam or document camera. (Most current laptops and monitors have webcam hardware as standard accessories.) Otherwise, you can plug a separate webcam into your computer via USB. Or you can use a document camera which some teachers use to project papers they are teaching from at their desk onto a white board or large screen. Use of the webcam/document camera will allow your visiting author to see your students in the classroom during the chat. In fact, both author and students will be able to see each other and interact in real-time.

2. A skype account which you create on your own for free at, preferably from the computer you will be using. This will entail coming up with a user name that an author or another classroom will use to "call" you when it is time to connect via your computers. Make sure you exchange user names with each other prior to the visit so that you can each go into your Skype account and add the other's user name as a contact prior to the visit.

3. A digital projector that will project the classroom computer screen onto a larger screen that all the students will be able to view.

4. Sound/Speakers.

That's it!

And of course a copy or two of the books that the author has written. It will help your students get more out of the visit if they are familiar with the stories that your guest has written.

Stay tuned for Part 2. What Will Happen During My Skype Visit in the Classroom?


  1. I'm glad I popped over from your comment on my blog. This approach to author appearances seems to be gaining in popularity. I know some book club groups now Skype with authors. I am going to have to look into that.

    1. You are so right! I have known authors to do that also. Thanks for the reminder and heads up for our fellow writers and book club members. Great idea!