Skype as a third language

Meet Alice Brunsnaes. She is an experienced assisting teacher working at Dagnæsskolen in Horsens, Denmark from Nairobi, Kenya, where she lives. Her classroom is a Skype connection and her subject is English. When the children at Dagnæsskolen have this subject they often converse with her alone or in small groups.

I had the pleasure of interviewing her on how she manages to teach at such distances only connected through a screen on a laptop or a tablet. She had a lot of experiences and thoughts on how to do it, how to establish relations with the children and how to get them to get comfortable talking English, as if they had never done anything else.

One thing you will notice in the video below are her thoughts on Skype as a third language. She has a certain way of understanding the channel, she is using. The language used is English and she actually understands some Danish as well, but it is something more than that. She talks about using gesture, drawings & objects as an integrated part of the communication. She talks about an awareness of the screen itself and its possibilities and limitations. When she use gestures she does it within the framework of the screen. She also puts the small image of herself in the top of the screen to ensure that it seems like she is looking directly at the person, she talks to.

She is aware of the technology she teaches through and that is also an integrated part of the communication that takes place. Skype is mediating the communication, and she is actively using it to her advantage.

Skype seems to be an obvious choice for communication across time and space, but it is just as obviously works the best, if the participants are aware of the very digital platform, they communicate through. In this way they simply control the technology and take advance of its possibilities and might start to invent new possibilities. Otherwise Skype as a technology becomes either counterproductive when thinking of the needs of the participants or installs a certain understanding of what communication is about without anybody noticing.

So if Skype is a third language, what would its strength be when combined with other platforms like Minecraft or Virtual Reality? What if one combines the capacities of Alice with online videos or blogposts? Could communication online be something more than people talking together?

Well, enjoy the video and give it some thought!

Klaus Thestrup, Project manager