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“Do you surf in gym class?” – A classroom’s Mystery Skype experience with Hawaii

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 12.23.54 PMA class of our 5th graders just participated in a Mystery Skype session with a classroom from Hawaii – thanks to Joanne Jacobs and her students for Skyping with us from the 50th state! It was really cool to sit back and watch the kids in action. What’s a Mystery Skype, you might be wondering? Mystery Skype is where two (2) classrooms come together via Skype, and the students do not know the location of the other classroom (although the teachers typically know the location). Through a game of 20 yes/no questions, the classes attempt to determine the other’s location. Neat, right? During the Skype session each student has a job – such as inquirer, Google mapper and photographer. This site offers a comprehensive descriptions of the jobs, and I recommend checking it out. Here’s the two classrooms in action:

photo (6)

In our session, the Hawaii students guessed Illinois before we discovered their location. This made the Hawaii classroom the “winners”, but (as lame as this sounds) EVERYONE is a winner in Mystery Skype! The students are engaged and using geography skills, and it’s cool to release control to the classroom and watch how the students stay organized, interact with each other and communicate with the other classroom over Skype. Ms. Jacobs’s classroom was VERY polite, courteous and organized, and we were very thankful to videoconference with such a great group of students.

I’m still laughing about the end of our session, though. After each class have determined the other’s location (we guessed states and then moved onto cities…which makes it harder, but worth it if you have the time), there’s typically small talk about what life is like in the other state. Ms. Jacobs’s class had to run to 1st period (while we had just ate lunch – timezones!), so we were limited to a single question. The question we asked:

“Do you surf in gym class?”

The answer is no, in case you are wondering – but how cool would that be? (And as one of our students said, “That would be like us building snowmen in gym class.”)

If you are interested in Mystery Skyping, it’s super easy to get set up – this was my third time doing it, and finding an interested classroom is a breeze. Here’s a few ways to find a classroom:

1. Join the Mystery Location Calls Google Plus page – there’s a lot of activity on there. You’ll find a class in no time.
2. Tweet with #mysteryskype or @Mysteryskype. Mystery Skype typically will ReTweet out your information, and there’s a good chance you’ll receive a response from another teacher on Twitter.
3. Sign up at the official Mystery Skype page – there you can search by age group and location. You can also filter results by who is active on Twitter. If a teacher is active on Twitter it is likely he/she embraces real-world and authentic communicative opportunities for the students.

One final note – if you’re using Mavericks on a Mac (10.9.1), you may need to downgrade your Skype application to a previous version, otherwise you might only have one-way video.

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