January 7, 2012

Engaging Every Student with Mystery Skype

I first learned about Mystery Skype from Shawn Avery (@mr_avery) during the weekly Twitter #5thchat - a time for teachers to share ideas, thoughts, and questions about topics related to teaching. Everyone was excited about the idea, including me! His introduction to Mystery Skype is here.

What is it? Two classes anywhere in the world connect via Skype. They take turns asking yes-no questions to deduce the location of the other class. Before starting we brainstormed a list of good questions. The list is below:

Why do it? Not only is Mystery Skype highly engaging, but it incorporates both curriculum AND those increasingly important 21st Century Skills:
  • Geography
  • Inferring
  • Drawing Conclusions
  • Working Collaboratively
  • Using Maps
  • Using Search Engines
  • Generating Questions
  • Etc etc etc
I found the other class by asking, "Who wants to Mystery Skype?" on Twitter.

Leading up to our first Mystery Skype I spent a lot of time thinking about logistics. My driving question was:

How will I authentically engage every one of my students?

I started by reading several great blog posts by other Mystery Skype teachers. Pernille Ripp's "So You Want To Do a Mystery Skype" was especially helpful (@pernilleripp). I decided to create several jobs so that everyone had a task. Here are the jobs I used:

Inquirers - 2 people who sit in front of the camera. They ask and answer the questions.
Question Keepers - 2 people who keep track of the questions and their answers. They type this in a document as we go. The document is displayed for everyone to reference.
Think Tanks -2-3 People who help the inquirers figure out what questions to ask next and help them if they need help answering a question from the other class.
Messengers - 2-3 People who carry questions, answers, and ideas to the other groups
Cartographers - 2-3 People who use printed maps and atlases to make guesses, eliminate places, and answer questions as needed.
Online mappers - 2-3 people who use mapping and/or satellite sites (like Google Earth) to make guesses, eliminate places, and answer questions as needed
Clue Keepers - 2 people who use a dry erase board to keep track of available places for everyone based on input from other groups (it can’t be, it might be)
Photographer - 1 person to take photos
Commentary - 1-2 people keep a backchannel on todaysmeet.com

Our Mystery Skype took about 45 minutes. In that time, I was increasingly impressed at the learning, reasoning, and collaboration. It was loud and a bit frantic, but every single student was engaged in learning.

Not sure if you want to try it with your class? I'd be happy to Mystery Skype with your class or answer any questions about procedure. Have fun!

~ Amanda

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