How We Learn: Mystery SkypeOctober 13, 2017
WHERE: Andrew Jackson Elementary School (Philadelphia, PA) and Goodnoe Elementary School (Newtown, PA)
WHAT THEY'RE DOING: Playing “Mystery Skype,” a global guessing game created by Microsoft. Maryann and Jayda connected at the latter's surprise Milken Award notification in 2016 and realized they share many interests, including passion for STEM and for integrating technology in their classrooms to enhance student learning. Maryann told Jayda about Mystery Skype, an activity she'd used for several years, in which teachers use videoconferencing to connect with classrooms around the world.
Here's how it works: Two classrooms connect via Skype, knowing nothing about the other. The students’ goal is to guess the other school’s location (country, state, county, city and school name) before the other class guesses theirs. Students ask each other a series of “yes” and “no” questions. Each classroom may create questions prior to the session, but eventually the students ask impromptu questions based on the responses of the other classroom. During questioning, students collaborate and discuss question ideas while consulting globes, atlases, maps and the internet to help with their search.
In a recent Mystery Skype between Maryann’s and Jayda’s classrooms, students asked questions like:
- Are you located in the Eastern hemisphere?
- Are you located in the United States?
- Are you west of the Mississippi River?
- Are you in the Pacific Standard Time (PST) zone?
Over half an hour, students used a process of elimination to narrow down the opposing classroom’s general location. Maryann’s students were the closest, identifying that Jayda’s class was in South Philadelphia. Jayda’s students were able to guess the county in which Maryann’s students were located.
Once both classes revealed their exact locations and school names, the students then had the opportunity to talk about their schools and cultures, as well as similarities and differences within their given environments. Jayda’s class talked about its work with 3-D printers for mathematics and science projects; Maryann’s students talked about the Finch Robots from BirdBrain they use in their classroom.
Locating a Mystery Skype partner is easy. Teachers find each other on Twitter with the hashtag #mysteryskype through tweets like this:
The Skype in the Classroom (SITC) website also has an interactive map at https://education.microsoft.com/skype-in-the-classroom/mystery-skype
Maryann points out that it’s important to have a backup plan in case the other classroom is suddenly unavailable. One way Maryann has addressed this issue with her students is having one representative go into the hallway and Skype the students in the classroom. The student in the hall role-plays different jobs, e.g. park ranger, carpet designer, news reporter, sharing information with the class and answering their questions. This still addresses the same skills: critical thinking, communication and teamwork.
WHY: Mystery Skype is an engaging way to inspire learning and teach tolerance, says Jayda. “Students are able to make real-world connections to their peers in different areas and with different cultures and see how children live all over the world. This activity truly allows for students to be part of a global community. When humans connect, the potential is limitless.”
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