This post was written for the Christchurch Connected Educators blog as part of Connected Educators Month of October 2015. You can read the original post here.
Mystery Skype is a fun activity being played by classrooms all over the world and presents a fantastic opportunity for students to become “global citizens” as they meet other students from around the country and globe. On their website, it is described as:
Mystery Skype is an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions.
The St Andrew’s College Preparatory School has completed many Mystery Skype sessions now, ranging from students in Year 3 through to Year 8 and the students always thoroughly enjoy the challenge of guessing the location of the other classroom. So far we have played with schools in:
- Australia (Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland)
- USA (Oklahoma, Alabama, California, Delaware)
- Russia (Sakhalin Island)
Given the time zone of New Zealand, there are many parts of the world where it is virtually impossible to connect (although check out this Skype we did with the Viking Museum in York, where students came before breakfast to connect)
It’s interesting seeing how different teachers have prepared their students to play Mystery Skype – the American schools often have very formalised “jobs” where some students are researchers, others are questioners, whilst others hold up signs confirming if a question was answered correctly or not. Ultimately, it’s up to each teacher how they choose to play, but preparing students to think about how to ask effective closed questions is critical since answers can only be “yes” or “no”.
The temptation for students to zoom in and ask very detailed questions is almost overwhelming. For example, given the amount of American and Australian television we have in New Zealand our students can guess the accent of the students very quickly, but they tend to then ask very narrow questions such as “Are you in Los Angeles?” or “Are you in Sydney?” Teaching the effective use of atlases is really helpful and can then lead to more useful questions such as:
- Are you landlocked?
- Are you north of the equator?
- Are you on the West Coast?
One of the real privileges I have had helping classes with Mystery Skype is the sharing of Māori culture with other schools that may never have seen any aspects of it before. The students in our Preparatory School jump at the opportunity to sing waiata and perform the College haka and invariably the students overseas love it:
Mr Craig Kemp, the teacher at the school in Singapore and an ex-pat Kiwi, tweeted the view from his classroom:
Another amazing Mystery Skype - this time we were WOWed by a haka from @samuelmcneill school and @pmu16 thank you! http://t.co/wcVQ1WwO2A—
Craig Kemp (@mrkempnz) November 06, 2014
Mystery Skype is a fun way to connect with classes all over the world and I would really encourage you to give it a go. It is easy to find other classes thanks to the Mystery Skype website and our experience has been the other teachers are thrilled to find classes in New Zealand because they are often “so far away.” Once a connection is made, it is fun to then re-connect and ask questions of the other class for curriculum related topics e.g. if you’re studying weather patterns or transport, why not Skype that class in the US and find out their experiences or views on these things? Finally, Mystery Skyping is contagious – once classes find out their friends in different classes have done it, they start asking their own teacher to get involved. Have fun!
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I believe that Mystery Skype is a very interesting and fun activity. I’ve had many jobs , but being an English teacher at Preply.com ( http://preply.com/en/skype/english-tutoring-jobs ) has got to be my favorite to date. Teaching online is very convenient for me because I have a one-year old. In many of my classes, I often help kids review their English lessons for the day. We share a lot of ideas with each other and several have mentioned doing Mystery Skype in school. I like the idea of it and how the children react to it. I hope more schools will encourage this kind of activity in their English classes.
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