Skype as disruptive educational technology

sign of the times

I realized something tonight as I read the story of how Virginia Tech professor John Boyer landed a Skype interview for his World Regions class with Aung Sun Suu Kyi, leader of the democratic movement in Burma – I don’t give near enough credit to Skype as a disruptive educational technology.

I’ve helped faculty use it for just this kind of activity – bring in a guest from a distance as a guest speaker, and not thought twice about it. I’ve read stories of teachers who have used it to bring sick kids into class so they don’t fall behind. People are using it to connect with native language speakers to learn another language.

All this for free in a package that most grandparents use to speak with their grand-kids.

Maybe it’s because Skype has reached that point where it has become boring which, according to Shirky, is now the point where the conversation becomes interesting. Which is to say, once we stop our fascination with the technology itself and it becomes first mundane and then invisible, then and only then do we begin to see the change it has on society. Maybe Skype is at that point.

Tomorrow John Boyer is introducing his students to Aung Sun Suu Kyi. Want to see a group of motivated students? Check out the last 30 seconds of Boyer’s video request to Aung Sun Suu Kyi, posted on YouTube.

But it doesn’t have to be someone world famous to make it relevant for students. For Camosun College video instructor Andy Bryce, it was a former grad of the Applied Communication Program who now works for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.

Which begs the question, who do your students want to see in your class?

Photo: sign of the times by Doug Symington used under Creative Commons license.


Clint Lalonde

Just a guy writing some stuff, mostly for me these days on this particular blog. For my EdTech/OpenEd stuff, check out


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