Cinda Williams Chima

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Virtual Visit Using Skype

I am now available for virtual presentations via Skype. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Skype, it is a free software for chats and video conferencing available for download at .

Author Mona Kirby and Library Media Specialist Sarah Chauncey have founded a site for authors who Skype at . You’ll find a list of authors available for Skype visits as well as an overview of Skype, directions for setup, and equipment needed on their website here: . In brief, you will need a computer with broadband Internet access, a webcam, and microphone, and at an LCD projector and screen for audiences too large to gather around a computer display.

How does a Skype chat compare with an in-person visit?
Pros: Virtual visits are economical in time and money compared to an in-person visit. It can allow an author to “meet” with a small group of interested and motivated students--a book club, for example. It can also make author visits accessible for schools in remote areas or overseas. I’ve done brief Skype visits as a follow-up to in-person visits at schools, coinciding with the release of a new book.

Limitations: In-person school visits are generally a combination of writing workshops and auditorium presentations—for me, up to four in a day. Writing workshops would be difficult to manage via Skype. I can use slides with a Skype visit, but that requires some technical expertise and perhaps two LCD projectors and screens.

A well-planned in-person visit is generally a high-energy, cross-curricular event. Virtual presentations and chats work best with an audience that is already familiar with the authors’ books, which will automatically generate questions and interest in the presentation. School personnel may need to do more prep work up front to make sure the students are engaged and everyone benefits from the experience.

What Does a Skype Visit Look Like?

Cinda seated at her computer with built in video camera

Here I am presenting to Discovery Middle School in Granger, IN, talking with my hands, as usual.

Classroom with video projection of Cinda's image

And here is the setup at Southwest High School in New York State during a recent Skype visit.

School library with video projection of Cinda's image

Here is how I look to them during the Q&A.

Split computer screen with Cinda's slide on the left and a group of students on the right.

And here is how it looks from my end.