Mystery Skype: Reflection

I have written a number of posts this quarter chronicling the planning, design and execution of my Global Collaborative Project (GCP). Today, I take a moment to reflect on the project and how I was able to address the five ISTE Teacher Standards through the completion of this project.

When the GCP was first introduced by the professors, there were a great deal of questions because the nature of the project is so open-ended. As I look back on the last several weeks, I realize the freedom to pursue a project based on my own interests and curiosities helped me to stretch and grow so much as an educator. As the librarian of a dual-curriculum school, I am always looking for opportunities to connect students with the world and other students of bilingual schools. When I stumbled across Mystery Skype, I knew it had the potential to be a great learning experience, but my school had ever done anything quite like it in the past. With little idea of what I hoped to accomplish, I jumped in with both feet and my fifth graders happily followed. They were thrilled to be participating in a new endeavor, they seemed to delight in the fact that this was new territory and there were several questions that could not be answered.

As I look back, I think part of what made the project such a success is due, in large part, to the fact that I did NOT know what to expect. The students felt trusted and equals on this new journey. I was very transparent when things didn’t go quite as planned and they worked even harder when those moments arose. You can see, in the Execution Phase video that, while some aspects were frustrating, the students still stated that they thoroughly enjoyed the experience. They were learning perseverance without me teaching it, a skill that will serve them for years to come. Other important skills the students practiced throughout this experience:

  • Providing feedback
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Communicating with peers
  • Communicating over video-chat
  • Identifying small details that make a geographic location unique
  • Noticing the difference between broad and narrow topics

There are numerous other skills that I could list, but these are the ones that stand out most as skills that I did not anticipate but made the biggest difference in the students’ experience. In regards to more formal skills, I reflect on how the Mystery Skype project addressed the ISTE Teacher Standards:

ISTE Teacher Standard 1

Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity: Teachers use their knowledge of subject matter, teaching and learning, and technology to facilitate experiences that advance student learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments.

  1. Promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness.
  2. Engage students in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources.
  3. Promote student reflection using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify students’ conceptual understanding and thinking, planning, and creative processes.
  4. Model collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning with students, colleagues, and others in face-to-face and virtual environments.

Reflection: Mystery Skype allows me to create an opportunity for students to brush up on their local social studies knowledge, while learning the small nuances that make their home unique and identifiable. Students learn about the similarities and differences between classrooms from around the world and learn how geographic features can be used to identify a location. Students are given the opportunity to develop and practice communication and deductive-reasoning skills. Students not only collaborate with another class, but see the teachers model the process of communicating and setting up this experience.

ISTE Teacher Standard 2

Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments: Teachers design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessments incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the ISTE Student Standards.

  1. Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity.
  2. Develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress.
  3. Customize and personalize learning activities to address students’ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources.
  4. Provide students with multiple and varied formative and summative assessments aligned with content and technology standards, and use.

Reflection: Mystery Skype provides students with a great opportunity to meet and learn more about other students and cultures around the world. While this experience could have been done without the inclusion of technology, it is highly enhanced by the aforementioned digital tools. The tools certainly make the experience better, but the students are not focused on the technology, instead they are learning about geography, history, culture, communication, reasoning, and so many other great real-world skills. By conducting several of these opportunities, students can rotate through various positions, learning to identify their preferences, strengths and areas of improvement.

ISTE Teacher Standard 3

Model Digital Age Work and Learning: Teachers exhibit knowledge, skills, and work processes representative of an innovative professional in a global and digital society.

  1. Demonstrate fluency in technology systems and the transfer of current knowledge to new technologies and situations.
  2. Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation.
  3. Communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers using a variety of digital age media and formats.
  4. Model and facilitate effective use of current and emerging digital tools to locate, analyze, evaluate, and use information resources to support research and learning.

Reflection: For many students, this was their first experience using video-conferencing software, but because they were given the responsibility to navigate the technology, they quickly learned the ins and outs. The class first started off using Skype but because of chronic connectivity issues, we switched over to using Google Hangouts and the students navigated the site as if they used it every day. The idea that students now possess the skills and confidence to communicate with anyone is the world is thrilling.

ISTE Teacher Standard 4

Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility: Teachers understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in their professional practices.

  1. Advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources.
  2. Address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources.
  3. Promote and model digital etiquette and responsible social interactions related to the use of technology and information.
  4. Develop and model cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with colleagues and students of other cultures using digital age communication and collaboration tools.

Reflection: When students were first brainstorming facts about their hometown, they were frustrated to have to not only check their facts but cite their resources. A few short weeks later, when the students were doing a practice Mystery Skype session (I was in my office and they were Skyping me from the next room) they answered questions about their geographic location incorrectly. While discouraging at first, they realized the importance of checking facts and evaluating sources. Students also quickly realized the importance of privacy… They learned that if their Skype profile contained too much information, the cooperating school would immediately know our geographic location.

ISTE Teacher Standard 5

Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership: Teachers continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.

  1. Participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.
  2. Exhibit leadership by demonstrating a vision of technology infusion, participating in shared decision making and community building, and developing the leadership and technology skills of others.
  3. Evaluate and reflect on current research and professional practice on a regular basis to make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in support of student learning.
  4. Contribute to the effectiveness, vitality, and self-renewal of the teaching profession and of their school and community.

Reflection: I initially shared my GCP with only a few colleagues from around the school and I was delighted to discover that those teachers were so excited, they were also talking about it. Teachers were curious to know more and some even asked how they could also participate in Mystery Skype.

This project has provided me with numerous opportunities to get to know my students better, allow them a chance to take risks and share their individual strengths, stand as a leader in my school and open the doors to rich experiences in the future.

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