August 12, 2014
Our guest blogger this week is Erin Jackson from Kennington Primary School
What is Mystery Skype?
Mystery Skype is a game played through Skype between two classes. Each class aims to work out the location of the other class, by taking in turns to ask yes/no questions. The winner is the first class to work out the location of the other.
Students take on different roles while playing the game. There are many websites that list different roles that can be undertaken, but I like to keep it simple. I have:
- 2 scribes, who record information on a whiteboard
- 2 speakers, who sit in front of my laptop, asking and answering questions
- Researchers – all other students use their iPads to research and come up with questions to ask.
The first, and probably most obvious, benefit of playing Mystery Skype is the improvement in students’ geographical knowledge. It has helped to improve my students’ mental maps of the world and to improve their understanding of where we are in the world. It has also helped them to develop their knowledge of different cultures around the world.
Secondly, there are many mathematical benefits, such as map-reading, directions and time zones. Playing Mystery Skype often highlights concepts that we, as teachers, may take for granted that students understand; for example, what the different lines on Google Maps represent.
Mystery Skype also lends itself well to the English domain. The game naturally requires students to listen attentively to the questions and answers, whilst building on their comprehension, research and visual literacy skills. They develop their ability to ask ‘good’ and ‘follow-up’ questions, as well as whole-group and small-group discussion skills, such as negotiating.
Finally, my students have a high level of engagement when playing the game. My students often ask when we will have the next Mystery Skype and are always excited to come to school if they know we have one organised. They work together as a team and feel a real sense of pride and excitement when they are able to work out where the other school is.
Where to start
Start by creating a Skype account and joining ‘Skype in the Classroom’ (http://education.skype.com). Go to #MysterySkype and send out some messages to teachers you might like to skype. I usually send out about 5 messages with a given time and date, as not all teachers will reply or may have other commitments at that time. I also give the time in my time zone and convert to their time as well. Once a teacher replies, add them to your Skype account and you are ready to go! You might like to send them a message through Skype on the organised day to ensure the other grade are still able to participate in the game.
For Grade P-2 students, try beginning by playing Mystery Skype with local schools or other schools in the same state. For Grade 3-4 students, try other schools in Australia or capital cities/major towns in other countries. For older students, use towns/cities outside of capital cities in other countries. I aim to choose places that fit with my Integrated Studies topics, such as Thailand when we were studying Asia for Geography or a school on the Ring of Fire when learning about earthquakes. You might like to prepare something to share at the end, such as 5 facts about your town.
For more information about Skype or other virtual conferencing in schools see the DEECD Virtual Conferencing and Skype in the Classroom webpages.