In the end the call was carried out only on one teacher laptop in both schools. Each student at a time had a chance to talk. The different levels of English were noticeable, but with the guidance and help of English teachers around, we managed to understand each other. A lot of laughter and loued Italian talk could be heard at the other end, which made us picture in our minds the situation over there. We teachers had prepared long lists of possible questions to ask to help the students, who might find it awkward to think of what to say next. Not many of them were asked, though. Mainly our students talked about the weather, their hobbies, what music they like, and a little bit about school. As the Italians could see us, they kept commenting on how we looked -" how many piercings do you have, your hair looks different from the profile picture in the project website etc."
From the English learning point of view it was a very good first try, and we are planning another go, possibly with more Skype-connected computers before our summer holidays in Finland start in June. I was very pleased to get this feedback from our Italian colleague:
I'd like to thank you for the chance you gave us of speaking with you.. Despite their poor English.. mu students liked it a lot.. it boosted their motivation up.. And.. GUESS WHAT ...they want to do it again.. When could we do it..? But next time we'll have a webcam installed so you'll be able to see us as well....
Boosting students' motivation to learn English better is a very good accomplishment. And having fun at the same time, as you can see from these photos:
Our students in Finland.
The cheerful group in Venice.
Improvements for next time - instead of merely chit-chatting, students could have some collaborative task to do together, which would structure their talk a bit more, and give them a more specific purpose.
Interestingly, just today I found a link to this article in Edutopia and also wrote my comment asking for some advice and possibly interested Skype partners in other countries. The net, I find more and more, is serendipitous, or maybe it's just that it contains so much that whatever you happen to be focusing on, your attention is somehow guided to helpful information.