Most are familiar with the Skype and FaceTime apps that allow users to actually see and speak with long distance contacts. The technology is most commonly used between friends and family members. However, the Active Minds Chapter at Rockhurst University saw Skype as an opportunity to bring a unique perspective on mental health into the classroom.
During a meeting of Active Minds, an organization which advocates for the importance of starting the conversation about mental health, students had the opportunity to hear a presentation by an RU alumnus. This alumnus, Jack Reid, works on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota where he has seen first hand the effects of mental illness. Jack explained his unique experiences to an audience of attentive and interested students. Those students were seated in a classroom in Kansas City, roughly 600 miles from the reservation where Jack sat. Even so, the use of Skype allowed for a face-to-face conversation about mental health to take place.
The question could be posed: Couldn’t Jack have just written his experiences down to be read allowed? Why is it necessary to Skype him into the classroom for a live presentation?
One of the students who was in attendance for the presentation, Caroline Simpson, answered this question by saying, “Emotionally you got to really see how he felt. I fully understood how important all of this was too him and why it's such a problem in his eyes, especially as he's witnessing it first hand."
The students weren’t the only ones who felt positively about the experience. Jack agreed, saying, “There is something to be said for ‘spending time’ with people and interacting with them. It's like the difference between sending an email to your buddy instead of seeing him/her in person”. Active Minds is dedicated to starting a conversation about mental health and this presentation aligned perfectly with that mission. In lieu of a one-sided testimony, the use of Skype created the environment for a two-sided conversation that allowed for questions and discussions.
The practice of using Skype to bring speakers into classrooms is an idea that seems to translate well with many who were present at the Active Minds event. An education major, Gretchen Boxdorfer, saw the positives of the experience and potential for use with her future students. She stated, “The interactive aspect makes it more special than just watching a video, and allows for more questions and communication which stimulates the students more." The experience of seeing an individual as they speak to you is engaging to auditory and visual leaners, allowing them an alternative to reading information.
Technology such as Skype in the hands of educators and creative minds allows for speakers to present and converse with students all over the world. This offers a unique opportunity for the sharing of ideas, beliefs, and experiences. This sharing of ideas between communities and cultures encourages greater understanding, empathy, and cooperation between groups of differing beliefs.