Mystery Skype: Planning Phase

I like to think I’m pretty “in the know” when it comes to educational technology. Then I spend time with my brilliant classmates and professors (I lovingly refer to them as “The Great Brain”) and I realize I don’t know nearly as much as I’d like to think. In the last two weeks they have shared with me a treasure trove of tools that I had no idea existed. This quarter we are exploring the ISTE Teacher Standards and in order to take that learning to the next level, in knowledge and practice, we are planning and facilitating Global Collaborative Projects (GCP). The overview of the project follows:

Global collaborative projects help students become connected learners and provide them with authentic opportunities to learn from other people and experiences. These types of projects also provide students with new, diverse perspectives and help prepare them for an international workplace. In this project, you will collaborate with others outside of the Digital Education Leadership program to design and implement a global learning experience utilizing digital tools.

As I did some brainstorming for this project, the Great Brain told me about Mystery Skype. How did I not know this existed? If you’re scratching your head and wondering what Mystery Skypes are, this quick video gives a great introduction:

Skype in the Classroom, an educational division of Skype, has described Mystery Skype as “an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions. It’s suitable for all age groups and can be used to teach subjects like geography, history, languages, mathematics and science.”

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Getting Started

When I first thought of implementing Mystery Skype as part of my GCP, I had grand ideas of connecting my students to a school in Israel, where my students would practice their Hebrew skills, while the other students could practice their English skills. My extravagant ideas were quickly diminished however, when I realized a few faults in my logic… One, the time difference between us and Israel is over twelve hours. Our students would not be in school at the same time. Two, my fifth grade students’ language skills are good, but I don’t know that a majority of the kiddos would be ready for an entire Skype conversation in Hebrew. So, I took a step back and revised my plan.

I am looking to find another Jewish day school within the United States, where the two classes can do a Mystery Skype and then share similarities and differences between their two schools. So, first things first, I registered for a Skype in Education profile and made sure to check off the Mystery Skype box:

Screen shot 2015-04-16 at 9.44.29 AMNext, I reached out to both my Twitter network and my school’s educational technology consultant to find a school to partner with:

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Next Steps

I have emailed some contacts and hope to make a connection and move forward in scheduling a Mystery Skype with a fellow fifth grade class. As I organize the back-end details, I am going to share my plan with the kiddos and we’ll do some practice sessions so the students can not only be familiar with the process but also iron out any potential behavioral wrinkles. I wrote in a previous post that one librarian prepared her students by “Skyping into each others’ rooms. I would read from my library office to the kids down the hall over Skype. We were then able to teach them about Skype, how to behave, that it was just an “extension” of their classroom. All those silly behaviors that we see at first when kids are put in front of a camera can be talked about and addressed” (Lazar, 2014). I want this to be a fun and positive experience for the students, but it is also a great opportunity to learn about public speaking and being a representative of your community.

As we move closer to the actual Mystery Skype event, I’ll continue my research in how to best prepare my students to be successful. I have found a few blogs that provide newbies, like me, with some guidance:

Skype in the Classroom has also put together a list of quick tips and tricks:

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What Was Your Experience?

I am excited to hear from teachers, librarians and educational technology specialists who have done Mystery Skype sessions. What was your experience? How did you prepare? Do you assign roles to each student? What suggestions do you have? I welcome your thoughts in the comment section below. Check back for continued updates on this exciting new adventure!


References

Lazar, T. (2014, January 27). Students, authors and Skype: believe the hype. Retrieved January 24, 2015, from Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) website: http://taralazar.com/2014/01/27/students-authors-and-skype-believe-the-hype/

2 thoughts on “Mystery Skype: Planning Phase

  1. I’m so excited for you! Mystery Skype is such a FUN experience! I’ve found it helpful to do a few practice sessions before the first actual call, just between my students and I. I also have students brainstorm a list of questions that they could ask, and then sort them by relevancy. Something like, “Do you border an ocean?” is a lot more useful than “Is it sunny out?” It may also be easier to not do specific roles the first few times, and then slowly add them in based on your students’ needs. I’ve had all sorts of unexpected things happen during a call (fire drill!), so just be willing to roll with the punches and have fun!

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