I have been following all kinds of posts about Mystery Skypes for years. When I was a classroom teacher, I really wanted to do one, but I was never bold enough to pull the trigger because I had never seen it done. I’m all about jumping in the deep end and trying something new, but being a visual and tactile learner, I sometimes like to see things in action first. I’m excited that I get to work with great educators like 5th grade teacher Mrs. Batkins at Seven Pines Elementary! Using Edmodo as a Professional Learning Network (PLN), she met another teacher who has done TONS of Mystery Skypes with her class. Mrs. Batkins collaborated and worked with Gina Felton, 5th grade teacher at West Harrison Elementary School in Mondamin, Iowa.
Mrs. Batkins split her class up into different groups and jobs:
Greeters: Greet the class, introduce themselves and class
Inquirers: Ask the Questions
Question Keepers: Keep track of the questions and answers
Mappers: Use Atlas, Google Maps, etc. to zero in on the classes location
Digital Photographer: Captures the call with digital or video camera
Logical Reasoners: Using clues given, students eliminate cities/states that do not match clues
Runners: Runs facts, questions, comments to Inquirers and Logical Reasoners for contribution
Once the call came in, the kids did a great job introducing themselves. You could tell we were new to the scene when we asked who goes first, and their reply was a simple, “We usually play Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Not only were we about to embark on a new adventure of Geography Critical Thinking, but we were also doing a Virtual Roshambo. It was a perfect way to break the ice between these students meeting each other for the first time as well.
We started off really strong with our first question: “Are you located in the Southeast Region?” Unfortunately, the overall understanding of what made quality questions seemed to fade when some of the questions our class started to ask included: “Are you located within 60 miles of a lake?” – “Does is snow in the winter where you live?” – “Do you have famous sports team in your state?” Good questions is general, but not when trying to narrow down where a class is located in the entire United States. Mrs. Felton’s class were obviously seasoned veterans in their questioning: “Are you east of the Mississippi River?” – “Are you north of the Mason Dixon Line?” – “Do you border an ocean?”
Eventually, after narrowing down the states in which we are located, the classes had to narrow down to the city as well. Again, Mrs. Felton’s class did an awesome job of using east/west and north/south questions in relation to highways and interstates in Virginia, and they were able to find us quickly. I also overly applaud her class for working with us as we tried to figure out their city as well. This task seemed tough for our class with many of the questions seeming like we were throwing darts: “Are you in Iowa City?” – “Are you in Des Moines?”
The best part of the lesson was after we had said goodbye and hung up. As a class, we had a discussion about our questioning and whether or not they really helped narrow down locations. I explained that we are basically playing the real life version of the guessing game, Guess Who?. It was really awesome seeing light bulbs clicking with students. They started thinking and realizing what would be more relevant questioning techniques. Another idea we came up with to keep all the students on task would be to add another job of Backchanneler. Using Today’s Meet, students from each class could be verifying questions and collaborating together during the Skype session. This could be a great way for more open communication between the classrooms instead of just the Greeters and Inquirers talking on the video camera.
Mrs. Batkins’ class is definitely ready for their next Mystery Skype, and I can’t wait to jump into the deep end with them again!
If you’re looking for some resources so you can do a Mystery Skype in your classroom, check out these links!
Mystery Skype in the Classroom – Part of Skype’s Education Page
Mystery Skype List of Teachers – List of over 230 teachers who are interesting in Mystery Skyping
@Cybraryman1′s AMAZING Skyping Resource Page – Great page about using Skype in Classroom with a section on Mystery Skype
@Cybraryman1′s “Mystery Location” Page – Jerry’s Specific Page dedicated to Mystery Location Lessons