How to Use Skype (New Media Monday)

VOIP Map

Chances are you’ve heard someone talking about Skype . But what is it anyway? In short, Skype is a way to call anyone in the world for free.

How Skype Works
Skype uses a technology called VOIP that uses the Internet to place a phone call instead of a traditional land line.  This cuts the cost of the call down to virtually nothing for the VOIP provider. The most famous VOIP provider is Skype but there are others such as Gizmo.

Skype lets you call any land line in the world for pennies a minute but it also lets you call any computer for free. This is the best way to communicate with your missionary friends over seas. All you need is to download Skype and have your friend do the same and then you can call each other. It’s about as easy as instant messenger.

How to Use Skype

  1. Go to Skype.com
  2. Download Skype
  3. Install Skype
  4. Pick a username and password (don’t forget these!)
  5. Add your friend’s skype usernames to your friends list.
  6. Add me. My skype name is ThomasUmstattd 🙂

What You Need

  1. A Windows XP or OS X Computer. You don’t need much of a computer, just one with a sound card.
  2. A Microphone Headset. A traditional mic is not enough since your computer speakers will feed back into the microphone. They have some good headsets at the Skype Store.
  3. A Webcam (optional). Skype doesn’t just let you talk it also lets you to video chat like they do in Star Trek. If you don’t have a webcam already Logitech is a great brand.
  4. A broadband connection (for video) .

Tips for Hosting a VOIP Debate Match
Skype Matches are the new big thing in NCFCA. Since homeschoolers live so far apart having practice roudns on Skype is a great way to save money. Here are some tips for pulling off a great practice round:

  1. Plan ahead. It’s a lot easier to have a Skype Match when all competitors have a few days notice.
  2. Dry Run. Test everything before the round starts. That means connecting to the other teams computer and making sure you can hear each other.
  3. Join your partner. Even though Skype lets you have up to 9 different computers all in the same conversation being at the table with your partner helps you learn how to prep like a team.
  4. Use video. Using a web cam can help you get much better feedback particularly if your judge is not in the room with you.
  5. Use a Good Mic. This Polycom Skype Mic sits nicely on a podium/sturdy music stand, filters out background noise and provides a way for both team members to be a part of the Skype call without passing the headset back and forth (or having two headsets).  This microphone is comparable in quality but much less expensive than most phones that Polycom makes. Remember this mic will save you gas money. (Thanks to Mrs. Jumes for tip #5)

Skype Video Tutorial

I found this video on YouTube that gives a detailed guide to using Skype. Sorry for those of you behind filters the only videos I could find were on YouTube.

Other Cool Uses for Skype

  1. Record a conversation as an mp3 (great for podcast interviews)
  2. Schedule a Skype Wakeup Call
  3. Setup a Skype Home Security System
  4. Switch to high resolution skype video chats .
  5. Send a Text Message to a regular phone.
  6. Replace you landline phone with a Skype WiFi Phone .
  7. Hold a 9 member research brainstorming session using Skype’s free phone conference feature.

What do you think?
Do you use Skype? Do you like it? Do you have any Skype tips I’m missing?

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Thomas Umstattd Jr. is the author of Courtship in Crisis, the former head of PracticalCourtship.com, and co-founder of the Austin Rhetoric Club, a homeschool speech and debate club in Austin, Texas. He is a professional speaker and CEO of Author Media. He sits on the board of directors for several nonprofits, including the Texas Alliance for Life.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

4 thoughts on “How to Use Skype (New Media Monday)

  1. Skype is really cool. I've been using it for debate stuff. I have several observations (lol) to make:

    1) Skype works in Linux, just FYI. 😛 http://www.skype.com/download/skype/linux That's one of the main reasons I'm still using it. 🙂 I personally think the linux version they produced is better than the windows layout. (for some reason everyone adds extra buttons when they make something for Windows – RealPlayer has this problem too) And Ubuntu linux will automatically recognize whatever webcam you throw at it. Actually much easier to set up than in windows.

    2) And I've had no major problems with feedback on my computer, and I'm not using a headset mic. Actually, my 7 year old mic tends to get better quality than most of my friends who use headsets.

    3) Here's my problem with skype: (Other than the fact that they need to WAY simplify their Windows version) Video only works for two-person conversations. 🙁 So you can have TP debate rounds, you just have to do them in sound-only. Oh well. I'm thinking DimDim may be a great alternative for that. http://www.dimdim.com What do you think about it?

    > Brian

  2. My thinking is that for Skype video you would only use two computer one for AFF and one for NEG. But you are right. If you need to have multiple locations or you have a third party judge DimDim looks great.

    Another good site for video conferencing is http://www.mebeam.com. It requires no downloads, setup or signup. You just create a room and have people meet you there. I tried it and it setup was dead easy on both windows and Mac OS X.

  3. For multiple party conversations, DimDim is more efficient since each computer only talks with the server where Skype has every one talk with everyone else.

    One interesting thing to note, is you can use Skype AND DimDim at the same time. This opens up a variety of interesting twists.

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