Even before this, several innovative teachers were already using Skype to connect with other teachers and schools throughout the world. But they were on their own in finding contacts and establishing links. But with this new social network for teachers and students, it will be easier for teachers and schools to have a way to bring in subject matter experts outside of the traditional classroom area.
To participate, teachers just have to create a Skype account, which is free, and then create a profile in the ''Skype in the classroom'' section. In this section, they have to indicate their area of expertise, location, the age groups that they teach, what their interests are and what they can offer other teachers. They can use the directory to find projects of their interest, get in touch with other teachers and request contacts from like-minded teachers and students.
Connecting students speaking different languages remains a focus for the new feature. Teachers can now find native speakers of the foreign languages being taught in their school. The students can be each other's conversational partners practicing their languages skills sitting thousands of miles away. Cultural exchange and language skills are the two areas which hold the most promise for Skype in the classroom.
Using Skype in language classes is not the only advantage this feature offers. Teachers can now take students on virtual field trips of museums in different parts of the country or world. They can also get authors, scientists and historians to do a virtual seminar for their students.
All this is of course dependent on the fact that teachers are able to get the required institutions and individuals interested. This is where parent involvement comes in. Parents who have bought into the idea of Skype in the classroom are also more likely to encourage people in their social and professional networks to participate in the Skype initiative.