I'm also the last person I know to get into the text chat game after being turned off AIM and later frustrated by iChat's failure to consistently video conference.
But recently I think I've just started to really use Skype effectively and I wanted to share a few thoughts on how that works for me.
- Stay logged in all the time: If you had a cell phone that was never on then no one would call you on it. Chat is the same thing, if you are never available then people will stop looking for you to be. I was very reluctant to do this at first but I believe it's critical to this tool working.
- Understand chat is different than a phone call: If someone chats with you, it's not necessary to reply right away. You can set your status to away, or even do not disturb as needed. It's okay to come into and out of chats as you can. The expectations are different and that's a good thing.
- Understand chat is different than email: You don't need to speak in complete thoughts - quick questions are okay. You can also share links more dynamically.
- Keep chats with key people open: I have a few folks that I work with consistently, I keep chats with them open (sometimes with groups of people) and as I have a question for them I can ask away. Often they can get back to me right away. This is MUCH more effective than email since I have instant feedback and can give and take for a while before moving on.
- Video conferencing is powerful: It's much much more powerful to see and speak with people than just to speak with them. Our ability to make relationships and maintain relationships at great distance is vastly different with free, robust video conferencing. I don't think we've started to scratch the surface here of what's possible in an educational setting.