For the Educational Technology Tool of Communication, my group and I explored Skype. Skype, stemming from the phrase "sky peer-to-peer" is a video conferencing tool that works over the internet. Users can make calls to other users and see and hear each other. Multiple users can Skype together at one time. Users can both skype with video and voice or one person can see video while the other only hears voice, a.k.a "Skype-out".
In addition, Skype has an instant messaging feature where users can chat while connected. You can also share your screen with the person you are Skyping with. This is beneficial for sharing powerpoints, websites, pictures...whatever is on your computer screen you can share with your Skype partner. When Skyping in on a group discussion or project, screen sharing is a means of communicating data, spread sheets, or whatever document the group is working with.
Skype can be a useful communication tool for video conferencing with other groups or businesses, or to participate in a group discussion while you are home at sick and away from your small group. Teachers can lecture to their classes while away from school, or students can video conference in to a teacher's lesson when the student is sick.
This tool could be used to expose students to a virtual penpal who lives far away or in a different culture. A foreign language class could practice conversational skills and learn more about the language they study through a student from that culture by video conferencing. Elementary students could Skype other elementary students from around the country, or even from different countries. In daily life, my experience with Skype has been through seeing my friends use it to communicate with family, friends, or significant others who live far away. Talking conversationally, like on a telephone, is made even better with the addition of video, so you can see the people you miss.
Some cons could be if students took advantage of the ability to Skype into a lecture by calling in sick too often. Video conferencing should never replace classroom lecture and experience.