Mystery Skype in my Classroom
What is Mystery Skype
I came across Mystery Skype on Twitter and the premise of Mystery Skype immediately caught my attention. The concept is two classes, anywhere in the world, connect through Skype and try and guess each other’s location through a series of questions. Most Mystery Skype aficionados stick with Yes/No questions. The students must focus on asking questions that will narrow down the search area so that they can guess the other class’s city.
Students are assigned a variety of roles, including questions keepers, inquirers, Google mappers, etc. (see this link for a list of jobs descriptions http://mysteryskypes1213.weebly.com/mystery-skype-jobs.html). I would suggest that teachers start with assigning jobs and once students become more familiar with Mystery Skype they can begin to choose their own roles.
How You Can Find Others Who Want to Mystery Skype
These websites: http://4thchat.wikispaces.com/Mystery+Skype+Sign+Up or http://6thchat.wikispaces.com/Mystery+Skype) are sites where people who want to Mystery Skype post contact information. You can sign-up with your details and people can contact you or you can find people’s details and contact them.
Although there are lots of people signed-up on the previous mentioned websites, I haven’t had much success in either contacting anyone or anyone contacting me so I would suggest using Twitter. Use #mysteryskype or #mystery skype and either reply to people’s requests for a Mystery Skype or post your own request and people will reply to you. The bonus is that these people can become part of your PLN and you have interesting new people to follow. I find that you have to be proactive and contact a number of people. You have to keep checking the hashtag regularly.
Reasons For Selecting This Resource
Mystery Skype is fun. Students enjoy it because they like the mystery aspect. They also enjoy seeing children their age, finding out where they live, what their school is like and what kinds of things other kids like to do (during one session in early June, my students were shocked to hear that students in Pennsylvania were done school in a couple of days and the other students were shocked to hear that we had three more weeks of school).
On top of being fun, I think Mystery Skype encourages skill and community building. Students are encouraged to use critical thinking skills (my favourite example of this is a Skype we were doing to Florida in March. One of students noticed that the kids were wearing shorts so she immediately started looking at the southern United States), speaking and listening skills, geography skills and many others.
Using Skype gives students an opportunity to make connections outside of their classroom, school, community and even country. Students are able to recognize differences and similarities in a respectful manner and understand and increase their worldview.
The constraints for any new idea introduced into a classroom comes down to time and resources. The first couple of Mystery Skypes can be frustrating and could take at least an hour. Students will be unfamiliar with their roles and what types of questions to ask. They will needs some guidance but once they begin to understand how to ask the most pertinent questions, they need a lot less class time. Another thing that I discovered was that you had to be flexible with your time because classes were in different time zones. I had to sometimes work around another person’s schedule, e.g. using my math block to do a Mystery Skype. Flexibility was a key issue.
Another constraint might be resources. I had to purchase a web camera (the money came from my classroom budget). I also used my SMARTboard to project the other class. If you do not have these resources you can still Skype. You can use the camera on your laptop or iPad and just Skype through your laptop. I saw a number of classes working this way.
For me, Mystery Skype is perfect in an inclusive classroom because it encourages community building both in the classroom and outside of the classroom. Students can be assigned a job that they can be successful at and everyone has a role to play in finding out where the other school is located. This year some of my lower students were the most enthusiastic participators of Mystery Skype. They loved the fact that they got to ask questions and answer the other class’s questions, and they were able to work with their classmates looking at atlases or on Google maps. Since this was a class effort, students who did struggle always had another classmate in their group that would help them if they were stuck.
I would also mention that before you Skype, expectations for behaviour should be clearly laid out. As with any new activity there might be some children who push the boundaries but I found that once they became more familiar and figured out what roles best suit them they become more focused. The activity allows students to identify their strengths and personalize their experience.
What Decisions and Supports are Needed?
My first place for support was my administration team. I invited them in to watch a Mystery Skype and found that they were very supportive of the whole process. Before we Skyped for the first time I made sure to send home a letter to parents explaining what Mystery Skype was and get their permission for their child to participate. I gave parents the opportunity of giving full permission for their child to be on camera or them giving permission for the child to participate but not be on camera. The parents were onboard and all parents gave their permission to have their child participate and only one parent did not want their child on camera.
Next year I plan to continue with Mystery Skype, and Skype to even more locations around the world. I think that using Skype in the classroom allows for endless opportunities to connect with others.
Website Resources for Mystery Skype:
Cheryl. (2013, March 16). Mystery Skype. [Blog]. Retrieved from http://www.classroomquests.com/2013/03/mystery-skype.html?m=1
Morgan. Skype Etiquette and Mystery Skype. [Blog]. Retrieved from http://mrsmorgansstars.edublogs.org/skype-etiquette/
Mystery Skype – What is it? (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2013 from The Global Connection Wiki: http://theglobalconnection.wikispaces.com/Mystery+Skype+-+What+is+it%3F
Ripp, P. (2011, October 25). So You Want to do Mystery Skype? [Blog]. Retrieved from http://pernillesripp.com/2011/10/25/so-you-want-to-do-mystery-skype/
Schmidt. (2013, January 24). A New Kind of Mystery Skype. [Blog]. Retrieved from http://mrstinaschmidt.edublogs.org/2013/01/24/a-new-kind-of-mystery-skype/
Skype in the classroom. https://education.skype.com/