Monday, March 30, 2015

The funnest game on earth: #MysterySkype

One of the most engaging activities I've ever participated in is a #MysterySkype. I've facilitated several Mystery Skypes in both 5th and 2nd grades since last year and in every case the students have been engaged and focused. They've cheered when they made a good guess and groaned when they realized their question was off-base. In fact, we just participated in one this past week where neither class wanted it to end, even after an hour of back and forth! Students also realized how much more they need to learn about geography - even for their own state!

Although Skype is primarily used, classes can accomplish the same thing in Google Hangouts and have a Mystery Hangout.

A Mystery Skype is a 30 minute critical thinking challenge where two classes connect. The goal for each class is to guess the other school's location, whether it's the country, state, city, or school name. Classes take turns asking yes or no questions, trying to narrow down the location before the other successfully guesses. 

Students hold a variety of jobs and use a variety of resources. We always set it up so that each student has something specific to do, whether its record information, research maps on the computer, ask and answer questions to/from the other class, or run information back and forth between groups.

Here's a two minute video demo to give you a visual idea.

Why would I want to participate in a Mystery Skype?

There are many skills that students can utilize through a Mystery Skype, including:

  • critical thinking
  • creates global awareness
  • geography skills
  • using resources to find information
  • collaboration
  • communication skills
  • creates partnerships for future projects
  • student-led

These are all important skills that students need to have, growing up in a global economy, but can't be measured or taught by any standardized test. 

Mystery Skypes can be done at any grade level and subject. Kindergarteners can do a Mystery Number or science classes can do a Mystery Element, for example. 

What do I need?

To participate you'll need a few things:

  • Skype or Google account
  • computer
  • webcam
  • microphone
  • a projector (optional) makes it even better to display the conference call on a big screen

Of course you'll also need geography resources to look up a locations you are trying to guess. Atlases and computers with web access are perfect for this.

Students love it!

Once you start, you won’t be able to stop. Mystery Skype has been the most engaging way I have found to hook students into learning about the world. Geography learning has never been so fun and student question asking abilities has improved out of this world!

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