Using FaceTime to Communicate and Teach

I’ve recently begun working with a 10 year old boy who has dyslexia. That’s not unusual for me. It’s an important part of what I do in my educational consulting practice, and I’ve been doing it for years.

What’s new is that the young boy and his family live about four and a half hours away by car. So, on our respective Macintosh Computers, we have our language-training intensive tutorial sessions, four days per week, via Apple’s FaceTime, their video calling software. And so far, it’s working great.

I know this isn’t necessarily breakthrough stuff; Skype’s been around for awhile for example. But, for me, and for this particular family, it’s a thing of beauty. FaceTime gives them access to me, a trained dyslexia specialist, without leaving their somewhat rural home. It allows me to stay connected to a wonderful kid and his family.

One of the things I wondered about was whether the screen/virtual connection would somehow miss too much of the intuitive, non-verbal aspects of communication that I depend on. In my work, I’m not simply transmitting information. There’s an exchange that goes well beyond that. Pleasantly, I’ve found that I can be nearly or exactly as perceptive to subtle cues and input from my student as I can in person. The fact that we began our relationship in person and that we have that as a base of knowing one another, is, I imagine, very helpful.

There is an aspect of any therapeutic relationship that happens right-brain to right-brain, intuitive self to intuitive self, and I wasn’t sure how that would translate in a computer environment. It’s working very very well.

Another aspect of a teaching/remedial/mentoring relationship that I wondered about concerns motivation and attention. Would the video-phone environment diminish my ability to capture and hold his attention? Would he be able to sustain his attention? Let’s face it, even in the same room, teaching someone who’s dyslexic all about spelling patterns for example, generating and holding attention is important and not a foregone conclusion (smile).

As it’s turned out thus far, he’s had a higher level of concentration because of the technology and novelty of the interface. Because of the demands of computer-computer interface, we’re working more than ever with word processing, and besides improving his reading and spelling, he’s also having to learn how to cut and paste, how to use links, how to get more out of his browser, and how to select and use extensions. He’s loving it!

So, expanding our concepts even for elementary-aged students, of what the teaching environment, interface, and delivery should look like, is good thing.

Having the right tools helps. On my end I’m working on a brand new iMac with a large enough screen and a fast enough processor, and high speed internet connection, that I think helps FaceTime works like a charm. FaceTime software on a large enough screen allows my student to hold up his paper and work to show me, and unlike previous versions of Photo Booth for example, the letters and words appear correctly and not in mirror image.

There’s nothing in what I’m using, that is “adaptive” or “assistive technology.” This is simply the basics of what’s out there for anyone.

Next, I’m trying to figure out how I can screen share easily through new and improved features inherent in Lion OS 10.7.2

About Sanford

Learning Disabilities specialist and Educational Consultant
This entry was posted in Computers and Software, Education Issues and Ideas, LD Support Professionals, Technology Issues and Ideas. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Using FaceTime to Communicate and Teach

  1. Richard says:

    Just so you know, iChat AV, another Apple product for the Mac was around long before Skype and before Skype had video. It’s had audio, video, and text chat for over a decade.

    FaceTime will work on Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Doesn’t take a high end machine, just a fast enough connection to support video.

    You have able to screen share through iChat AV for many years now. Lion isn’t required, just iChat AV in Leopard.

  2. Sanford says:

    Richard, thanks. I know that iChat’s made this possible for a while now, but for some reason I have an easier time with FaceTime.

  3. That’s a great use of technology. I’ve been advocating for several years that the technology most of our kids are walking around with in their back pockets (I.e. Cell phones, itouches, etc ) are underutilized to address organizational and planning deficits that our ADHD and ASD kids experience. I will show kids how to use even the most basic calendar, note page and voice recorders to organize their assignments and plan reminders in the future. They love having the opportunity to use their devices so why not capitolize in their interests? Now convincing schools to give up paper and pencil agendas is another story..

  4. Sanford says:

    Thanks Melinda.

    I agree that people under-utilize technology for learning. Education’s been too focused on looking for the right programs or some sort of integrated total system instead of using the tools inherent in good technology, like calendars and basic word processing.

    “Now convincing schools to give up paper and pencil agendas is another story..”

    Unfortunately, you’re right on here as well. Too many schools just don’t get it.

    I recently saw a school with a bunch of brand new iMacs sitting so nicely lined up in a classroom and they’re hardly being used.

  5. Richard says:

    Sandy: FaceTime is not on all Macs, iChat AV is and works with an AIM address as well as an Apple ID. It’s the more accessible tool and also does screen sharing, something FaceTime doesn’t do.

    Melinda, et al: You may want to take a look at a piece I wrote for a presentation I did many years ago on Digital Independence. It’s dated now but has many good ideas that were well ahead of their time. I have it posted at this site:

    and at this site where the formatting might make reading easier:

  6. jully says:

    can anybody recommend a program to record FaceTime conversation??

  7. Richard says:

    Jully: That’s a great question. If you use iChatAV you can record to disk, it’s built in. I’m not sure FaceTime has that feature. I just poked around its preferences and I can’t find a way… there may be a third party add-on but that would take some research. Let us know if you find anything.

  8. jully says:

    Richard, thanx for ur answer!) yes, i’ve found a great tool! here it is, it allows to record FaceTiime conversations! i’m glad so much)))

  9. Richard says:

    Many times the programs won’t record without permission from the second party. IchatAV needs that permission, maybe this FaceTime extension does. Too.

    Great find jully.

  10. Jackson Neo says:

    Hi! My name is Jackson Neo!

    I’m from Brazil and i wanna learning English Language. I meet people that want learn Portuguese language.

    Is there any site or communits where i get a lot e-mail for training my English and help how to want learn Portuguese?

    My facetime is

  11. Pingback: a young teacher's walk ยป Blog Archive » FACETIME

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