In a meeting last week I mentioned how much I liked Skype, a couple of comments from other showed not everyone understood how it worked:

  • “I can’t be bothered with all that typing”
  • “What about when I have a bad hair day?”

Skype has lots of features, some of which are free to the user, while others are available as pay as you go or via a subscription. To use it you need:

  • a Skype account;
  • Skype software, it is available for most platforms from Windows computers, Macs, iPads, iPhones, Linux machines, Android and other mobile devices, it is also available on PlayStations and even TV.
  • access to the internet, it can be anywhere in the world;
  • if you want to use voice (as opposed to typing) you need speakers/microphone, a headset or handset;
  • if you want to use video you will need a camera, many devices these days have these inbuilt.

I use the following features (all free unless otherwise indicated):

  • The text instant messaging to check if someone is actually there and for a quick message.
  • I have worked with people around the world and we left a Skype text window open to have a rolling conversation round the world.
  • Sometimes we use the text message window alongside a conversation to make notes of a meeting (community minuting) which we can save and share later with each others and those that miss the meeting.
  • Mostly I just use voice, much as a telephone, but with my Skype account to someone else’s. This is really useful when travelling.
  • Voice conference calls are easy to set up and allow for easy collaboration.
  • I rarely use video, my default is that my camera is turned off.  But I do use it when talking to my family.
  • It is possible to call out to landlines and mobiles, I use this paid service when I am travelling as it is much cheaper than my mobile.
  • It is possible to share your screen with one other person for free (you need a subscription to share with more). I use this for technical things, such as explaining which button to press,  or to help debug a program. But I also use it socially to share photos.

For more information check out their website

About Shirley Williams

Shirley Williams is a National Teaching Fellow and Professor of Learning Technologies at the University of Reading. She is involved in a number of research projects related to learning technologies, communities, social networks, Digital identity and knowledge transfer. She also enjoys reading and cooking.
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One Response to Skype

  1. Chris Conder says:

    agree Shirley, I use it the same way as you, and I also demo it to little computer groups locally, who all take it up and are amazed at what it does, all for free.
    We also use hangouts – group video conferences are free with google+
    The main issue seems to be getting a good enough connection, but its great when you do.

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