Thursday, November 1, 2012

So What's the Hype With Mystery Skype??

I heard about Mystery Skype last year from a younger, much more hip, "Techno Teacher" friend of mine... so I've been thinking about how it could be used in the classroom, effectively and easily without too much set up. Of  course one of my criterion is that the form of technology must go beyond a "Bell or Whistle" ... The use of technology must be about the knowledge learned or the skill developed, not just using the technology for the sake of the technology...

So what is the "Skype Hype"?? 

Classrooms Skype call each other and try to guess where the other classroom is located in the world. It allows students to not only learn about another place, but develop a stronger understanding of their own home or community... as they are "experts" of their home community.
On the day of the call, students use their resources in trying to figure where the other class is calling from via Skype. To get a more detailed description and how to do mystery skype please visit the following blog for more information:
I learned quite a bit from the blog listed above, to get a sense of how a mystery Skype may go, take a look at Mrs. Ripp's First Mystery Skype... (the author of the site listed above)

* Before you even begin, note that you need to have a web cam and a Skype account. But more importantly, you need to see if you have all the necessary permission forms completed by parents for students to engage in a Mystery Skype. Of course a pre-taught lesson on Protecting Yourself in the Digital World would be a must....

According to the creators of the 6th Chat , the following is a definition of a Mystery Skype... 

Mystery Skype 

  • Mystery Skyping is one of many ways to use Skype to connect with other classrooms.
  • Two classes connect without the students knowing the location of the other class.
  • Students are assigned different roles to help detect where the other class is from.
    • Inquirers - Ask closed, geography based questions to the other class
    • Question Keepers - Type already asked questions and answers into a word processing document
    • Google Mappers - Use Google maps/other maps to zero in on location based upon the clues
    • Runner - Problem solver for other students/Take relevant information from group to group
    • Logical Reasoners - Use information to remove possible countries/states. They help narrow down the choices
    • Clue Keepers - Use paper maps to keep track of the information
    • Photographer - Take pictures of the event 
  • Using these jobs, students collaborate to solve the location of the other class.
  • For an example, visit Mystery Skype - Who Could it Be?

Hmmm... Sounds good, very collaborative, every student has a purposeful role in solving the clues... I like the inquiry based nature of the whole concept. 

Obviously great connections to Social Studies, with using a variety of digital and paper maps to evaluate potential locations, cultures, languages, timezones and hemispheres. English Language Arts is also obviously explored with oral fluency, presenting, note taking, critical thinking, just to state a few areas.  Math is explored with data collection, graphing and exploring clues like the forms measurement used in each country for information given. Finally, the ways technology is used is obviously limitless with video conferencing. 

One thing to consider, classrooms would need to "practice" before going on-line... Prepare students for the project, explore background information on your own community, reflect on video conferencing needs, language used (no slang), how to be "ambassadors"...

Finally, to ensure everything is ready, maybe practice with another classroom in the school or with another local classroom in the city, before going Global... Classrooms who are partnered for the practice, could provide feedback. However, if you are not able, you
you could just "wing it"! 

If you are interested...

So again, in order to get involved in Mystery Skype, you need to do the following...

1. Sign up with Skype
or go to:

2. Prepare a Permission form explaining to parents what Mystery Skype is and provide examples of how it is used to engage and help bring learning the curricula to life for students. You MUST have permission to have students take part. Keep in mind, there is nothing scary about the project, just remember the importance of educating students on their roles and responsibilities while doing the project. It is fast paced, so there is little time to waste!

3. Learn more on how to do a Mystery Skype... See the following blog, "Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension" to learn how. The following information has been ripped off from the talented Pernille Ripp, who is obviously an EdTech Guru... So why create the wheel? I just borrowed and adapted hers to fit an older Canadian classroom... Thus you will notice a more Canadian or general geographical knowledge focus...

For great Infographics and very specific steps on Skyping, as well as assessment with Skype see Langwitches blog:

*All information below was taken from Langwitches blog and adapted somewhat to fit a more global audience.

Before the call:
  1. Sign up - there are many places to sign up and some are even grade level based.  I signed up a couple of places but also tweeted it out; the response was immediate as a lot of people are doing this.  If you would like to sign up:
    1. 4th Chat Mystery Skype
    2. 6th Chat Mystery Skype
    3. Mystery Country/Mystery State
  2. Decide on a date and time - don't forget to consider timezones.
  3. Prepare the kids
    1. We wanted to know facts about our own province or country so that we would be ready for any question.  We therefore researched the following questions: climate, region, neighboring provinces, time zone, capital, famous landmarks, geographical location. With older students go further with the exploration, look at political leaders, resources, industries, specific geographical location (latitude, longitude, easter or western hemisphere, norther or southern hemisphere).  All of these clues will give the students a better grip of what they might be asked.
    2. We also brainstormed questions to possibly ask.  We like the concept of the questions having to have yes or no answers as it makes the game a little harder and has the students work on their questioning skills.  Brainstorm "Narrowing Down" questions with students to ask the other class. Questions we came up with included whether they were in the United States, whether they were east of the Mississippi, Whether they were West of the Rocky Mountains, If they were in a specific region, whether they border other countries, whether they are landlocked etc. These are very American sounding clues, what are some other clues a Canadian student may consider?
    3. Give jobs. It is more enjoyable when students have specific and well defined roles or jobs. The following is a list of possible jobs. Note, that the list is much longer than what I listed before. Feel free to combine or use some of the other jobs listed at the beginning of this blog post, or brainstorm your own depending on your grade level. See the following link for other Mystery Skype Jobs at Langwitches Blog.
      1. Greeters - Say hello to the class and some cool facts about the class - without giving away the location.
      2. Inquirers - these kids ask the questions and are the voice of the classroom.  They can  also be the ones that answer the questions.
      3. Answerers - if you have a lot of kids it is nice to have designated question answerers - they should know their state facts pretty well.
      4. Think tanks - I had students sit ina group and figure out the clues based on the information they knew.  Dollarstore $2 whiteboards can come in handy for this.
      5. Question keepers - these students typed all of the questions and answers for us to review later.
      6. Google mappers - two students were on Google maps studying the terrain and piecing together clues.
      7. Atlas mapper - two students used atlases and our pull down map to also piece together clues.
      8. Clue keepers - worked closely with answerers and inquirers to help guide them in their questioning.
      9. Runner - A student that runs from group to group relaying information.
      10. Photographer - takes pictures during the call
      11. Videographer - Have two students film the call
      12. Clue Markers - These students work with maps to remove any countries that didn't fit into the clues given. Maybe use laminated maps of the world (or country) and erasable markers??
      13. Problem solver - this student helped students with any issues they may encounter during the call.
      14. Closers - End the call in a nice manner after guesses have been given.  Thank the "visitors" for taking part in the fun!
Other Jobs you can check out with Around the World With 80 Schools...

During the Call:
During the call you just have to step back and trust the kids.  The students will probably surprise you with their enthusiasm and their knowledge. This project gives students the opportunity to actively apply their knowledge and what they learned. When they are asked questions, they can collaborate, but they need to be able to respond accurately to questions about their own province and country. Ensure the students are prepared in advance, KNOW YOUR OWN PROVINCE AND COUNTRY! But give them a chance to take ownership for the project. As a teacher, be sure you are able to quickly check facts and assist where needed, but give them the opportunity to problem solve through the live experience!  

When you greet the other class, decide which class would go first with their first question and then there were two options or "Rules of the Game":
  • Yes answer: They get to ask another question.
  • No answer - Other team's turn to ask a question.
Students can be allowed to guess whenever they thought they had a great answer (and it was their turn).  In the end, allow both classes the opportunity to guess each other's location.

For further preparation of the project, show the students  the video on Linda Yollis' blog 
It can provide very specific and concrete examples of what to expect.

Be sure to check out the Around the World With 80 Schools links. There is an insanely good infograph by the Langwitches blog lady. She pretty much takes you through the Mystery Skype step-by-step. I love the easy to read infograph which has awesome information and resources which you can adapt to suit the level of your classroom or outcomes.

To see the Around the World With 80 Schools wiki with a lot of the same information, check out the following link...

Also check out Mr. Avery's blog, as it has a great discussion of jobs he had students do during the call.

Jerry Blumengarten also has a nice collection of links on one of his many pages that can be helpful.

Get Started With Skype


Finally, explore other ways you can use Skype in teaching to globally collaborate and engage kids. Check out what Educational Projects are on Skype, with Skype in the Classroom

Start brainstorming some ways and explore how a Skype in the Classroom project can help your students engage with the curriculum outcomes and connect as they learn with other students around the world. As students solve the "mystery", think of how they are engaging with inquiry based learning...

One project lead by Australian teachers that captured my attention today was the 
Collecting Weather Data from all over the World! project. You can learn more about the project by visiting their Google doc, "International Weather Investigation" at 

See the following blog post and contact teachers with similar grade levels who might want to take part. Go to the following post:


Articles and sites to help explore the use in the classroom...

How do you make a video call via Skype?

Creator of Skype explains how Skype can make a difference in education...

Procedures and On-line Safety tips for using Skype from Cool Cat Teacher

Ed Tech Rationale for Skype in the Classroom

Reasons for Skyping in the Classroom with Langwitches blog

Teaching Degree's 50 Awesome Ways to Use Skype in the classroom

What is Skype and how can it be used to connect students globally and with learning? How can it connect teachers professionally and develop effective PLN's?

Tools and More information on Skype...

Around the World with learning... going beyond the 4 walls of your classroom

Lessons and Assessment with Skype with Langwitches Blog


No comments:

Post a Comment