Skype Lessons

February 11th, 2011

Category: News

My 10-year-old taught me how to use Skype the other morning. Although she and her friends use it daily, she had to walk me through it—slowly. It’s yet another reminder to me of how the world has changed and continues to change exponentially, for everyone and everything, including education.


Some argue that we shouldn’t innovate just for innovation’s sake; that we need to simply invest in what we have.  We need to do both.  It’s not just new approaches we need, it’s new approaches that work. 


Skype improves communication, but it doesn’t change it inherently. Skype makes communication global, accessible, mobile, and cost effective, but at the end of the day, it’s still a conversation. Effective reform should do the same for education.  Education will always be about the teacher and the student, but what we do with that relationship—how we enhance and improve it—is how we will take education to the next level. 


So why the talk about Skype? Because I was struck by the duality of it: how it is so new yet still the same. After you conquer the technology of it, all that’s left is talking and listening.  It’s new, yet comfortable. Will our schools feel this way if technology begins to play a bigger role in the delivery of education?  


Information is ubiquitous and funds are limited.  Parents and students will and should be pushing our schools to respond. 


Last weekend Seaford School District reported that it is converting part of its high school into a New Tech school model.  This is a model where students can engage in leading edge, real world projects. I like this model and I think a lot of parents are going to like it, too. Around the country, schools are being built or redesigned to better leverage technology in what are known as “click and brick” or blended classrooms.  This report  from Public Impact describes this growing national trend. 


Parents are more desperate than ever to get their child into a good school, as we saw last week with the conviction of Ohio mom Kelley Bolar-Williams. A generation ago, who would imagine getting arrested for trying to get your child into a good school?


As a state, we need to embrace change in our schools yet be smart about it. A tall order, but there’s no place to hide.  What do you think that change will or should look like?

Paul Herdman



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