Thursday, May 27, 2010

SKYPE: Part 1....A tool every music teacher needs in their toolbox.

By Mark T. Burke

Everyone once in a while, a tool comes along that changes our lives.  For me, SKYPE is that tool.  For those that have been living in their instrument cases for the last few years, SKYPE is a small, but incredibly powerful PC based application used for communicating with others.  Since music centers around communication, I think every music teacher needs to know about SKYPE.  For technical information and download, visit their site at

I won't be shy, this is going to sound like an advertisement for SKYPE.  But, let's be honest.  We all use tools that work and eventually, SKYPE will be replaced with some other wiz-bang application that proves itself better. So the real message here is to look at ways SKYPE can benefit the music education process.   So back to SKYPE for a minute, let's look at the features.

First, two people with SKYPE installed on their PC's can:
  • IM
  • Talk
  • Screen Share
  • Video Call
  • Share links
  • Send files
  • Play games
Oh, did I mention you can do all of this for free?  I should have said that earlier.

Now, if you extend SKYPE just a bit, you can do all of the things above...AND...
  • Call Phones and Cell Phones
  • Hold Conference calls (with other SKYPErs and phones or cell phones)
What do I mean by "extend"?  I mean pay as little as $2.95 per month to call other phones AND do all of those other things?  Yes in-deedy!

Now, if you extend it just a bit can...
  • Receive calls (just like any phone) through your own number. 
  • Get voice mail
  • Get voice mail notices sent to your email.
Here's the catch, you have to pay a a bit under $15.00 a year to get those additional services.  That's right, pull out the big bucket of cash for this one...under $15.00 a YEAR! I think the folks at SKYPE have done a great job of providing an extendable tool with a base price of $0.00 and the extensions won't break your bank. 

Now how can all of this help you, the music educator?   I thought this would be a great opportunity to produce a series of posts on how to harness the power of SKYPE. You can determine the value, but my guess is I won't have to twist your arm to admit SKYPE is a must have tool.

Connecting Students with other Professionals
In December, a local private student of mine was starting to work on a new solo. Just a few weeks prior, I had heard a graduate student perform the piece at a conference. I connected with the grad student and arranged a SKYPE session between her, my student and myself. I set the tone for the session so that everyone understood.  The goal was for this to be a mini master class.  The grad student talked about the piece and her preparation process. She even talked about articulation, difficult spots and ... go figure, THE MUSIC.

My student actually came to my studio so that after the session we could work on the piece. Overall, the session was about 30 minutes and proved to be incredibly valuable.

The take away: We all can't be everything to our students. We must look for ways to connect them to others. Using SKYPE creates a truly personal experience with voice, video, sharing of documents and all in real time.  Imagine if each month, you connected your students to another professional, a local or nationally recognized performer. What would the impact be?  With a little organization and the power of SKYPE you get a very powerful tool with quantifiable benefits to students.

In the next Part, we will take a look at a few of the calling features.

viaAcademies uses SKYPE to connect viaAcademies students with viaAcademies teachers. Added to the LiveLessons are our accessible music content, online practice guides, quizzes and interactive learning management system. Our "systems approach" ensures tight integration of all educational components in a flexible learning environment. Learn more today by arranging a demonstration. Email us at  

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