Saturday, February 20, 2016

How to do a Mystery Skype

For the past three school years my class has done a Mystery Skype with a friend's class in Alabama.
Because I teach in Wisconsin we often do this during the winter months, 
when there is a drastic difference in the weather in our two states.
My students are so surprised to learn that in Alabama the cut off for indoor recess in 40 degrees.
For us, the cut off is 0 degrees!

A Mystery Skype is a way for students to go beyond the classroom without taking a bus trip!
During a Mystery Skype students are learning about geography, weather, life in other places, and so much more!
Classes of students ask each other yes/no questions to discover what state they live in.
We have also done questions to find out the grade of the other group.

How can you set up a Mystery Skype?
First, you need a camera.
The first two years we did the Skypes I used a Web Cam.
I asked my principal about this, and he loved the idea of the Skype so much he purchased a Web Cam for my classroom.
(It is available for anyone in our school to use, too.)

Since that time, our district has updated our document cameras, and the new ones have video and audio capabilities.  If you have a document camera, you probably are able to use it for a Skype.
In the picture below you can see the students sitting in front of the document camera, which is directly in front of my desktop computer. These students are asking questions of our friends in Alabama.
 If you have a projection system, you can project the Skype on the screen for all in your class to see.
They love seeing themselves down in the bottom right corner.
 A few days before the Skype session, my students come up with questions they want to ask our Skype partners to find out what state they are in.
I project a map of the United States, and students create questions about  whether the state is landlocked, in the north, south, east, or west, if it borders Canada or Mexico, if its east or west of the Mississippi, and what time zone they are in.

Students have also asked questions like:
Does your state's name begin with a vowel?
Is your state in Tornado Alley?
Does your state have a professional football team?
Once students have generated an individual list of 5-6 questions, I go through the questions and select the ones I think might work best during the Skype.

I usually group students in pairs to ask the questions, looking for students who had similar questions of the ones they submitted.
Then I strategically order the questions, so that each person will have a turn to ask a question (with a partner or alone) before we take a guess as to what state our Skype friends are in.

During the Skype each student has a map, and they cross out states that don't fit the clues we've received in the answers to our questions.

After we discover the state, we usually leave time to ask questions about each other's school situations.
My students have asked questions like:
What is your school's mascot?
What are your school colors?
What grades are in your school?
Do you ever have indoor recess? 

At the end we always wave a thankful and friendly good-bye!

Now, you  may be thinking - how do I find a classroom to Skype with?
You can go to a website called Skype in the Classroom to find many teachers that looking to Skype.
My Alabama teacher friend has used this site, and has had her students Skype with a forest ranger and a scientist.
My class has also been able to Skype with scientists at ExxonMobil because of connections I have with the company through MEMTA.

I have also found teacher friends to Skype with through my Instagram account.
I put a post out about our Mystery Skype earlier this week, and now have dates set up with teachers in Missouri and Pennsylvania.

Have you ever done a Mystery Skype?
Do you have other suggestions?
Hope you are able to experience a Mystery Skype sometime!

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