If your computer is new enough, you don’t need to buy a separate webcam because a video camera is already installed. If you do need a webcam, basic models are cheap ($20 to $50) and available at any electronics store or even Wal-Mart. Check them out on online stores like Amazon.com, paying special attention to the customer comments to find out about their ease of use and quality. Skype’s video conferencing software works with any webcam.
As for Skype itself, it really is simple. Just go to Skype.com, choose “Join Skype” to set up an account and then click on “Download Skype” and just follow the directions. Then, to enable your installed webcam or your separate one, go to “Tools” “Options” “Video” and then indicate your camera choice. You can test your webcam there. Get a friend to sign up, too, and do some practice calls to get comfortable with the steps. You’ll always do test calls with your schools prior to your visits, too.
On their end, the teachers should contact their tech staff to check their districts’ ability to access Skype. Some districts block that site, requiring techies to change the settings on the teacher’s computer to remove the district filters and allow access to Skype. They may also need to set up a computer network camera for the teacher and a microphone to use on her computer, and she may need to have a personal Skype account. Actually, a lot of teachers are already up to speed with this because with today’s economy, Skype’s free video is often the only way to bring authors into a classroom. The bonus is, Skyping saves you travel time, enabling you to do even more author visits.