LOS ALTOS (CBS 5) – Teachers at a Bay Area school have joined thousands of others using a free program by online telephony firm Skype to connect with other instructors around the world.

Since January, nearly 11,000 teachers have signed up to participate in ‘Skype in the Classroom.’

The program acts as a go-between for educators in different parts of the world, according to a Skype spokeswoman. Teachers can have their classes talk to each other over a free Skype internet connection.

“Skype video has been able to expand the physical boundaries of the classroom,” said spokeswoman Brianna Reynaud.

Students in the second grade classroom at Montclaire Elementary in Los Altos know first hand how cool this new program can be. They recently ‘skyped’ with a class at an all-girls school in Santiago, Chile.

The kids said they got a kick out of asking each other questions about favorite foods and school mascots.

Classes have also been able to connect with authors and other educators, allowing teachers to bring real world expertise into the classroom at no cost to schools.

“The funding just wouldn’t be there to bring an author out to talk to my class for half an hour,” said teacher Jennifer Auten.

The calls require a computer, camera and overhead projector. Teachers indicate this set-up is budget-friendly since most schools have all the equipment already.

To find out more information, go to Skype.com.

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