I might be considered a slow learner. I first read about Mystery Skype about five years ago in Mrs. Yollis' blog.
Impeded by tech issues when I first tried to Skype at school, I didn't take the Mystery Skype plunge until the Global Skype-a-thon in December!! Now we are hooked! Every single story we read or lesson or skill we work on has us considering how we might tap into the expertise of someone else or connect with someone else to share our learning and learn from them.
Here is the story of how we were hooked by Mystery Skype - and not just us! Thousands of classrooms are also feeling the joy of learning from other classes. Our own walls came down along with walls all around the globe on Dec. 3rd and 4th as schools and classes worldwide connected - connections extended more than 4 million miles! Our Skype buddies were @MrsSchmidtB4 and class, 781 miles away in PENNSYLVANIA! This class was so well prepared with posters and information to share - we picked a winner for our first time out of the gate!
Hooking kids on learning from and with others was priceless, but we also checked off standards in reading, writing, English, math, and social studies.
One of our students was so awestruck by this event that he asked afterward if those were real people on our TV asking us questions! His eyes lit up when I responded, "YES!" It made a huge impact on our students to be able to see other learners in another place! They couldn't wait to do this again!
In January we had a Skype session with teacher @ZBettess and her 3rd graders @3BBees (and guests from her neighboring @wwladybugs class) in MANITOBA! While their location wasn't a mystery during our session, I did play a guessing game with my students to get them to narrow down where our new friends would be reaching out from. From there, we brainstormed what kinds of things we wanted to know and researched Manitoba. We wrote in our journals a list of the "Top Ten Things to Know about Living in the US" and another about life in Indiana and our small community. This lead to some great conversations about the U.S. and Indiana. Thankfully, Ms. Bettess also tweeted us some specific questions to help us maximize our time together as we connected over the 1600 miles between us!
After a couple of delays for snow days on our end, we finally connected with them and were delighted to take turns answering their questions and posing our own questions. We learned that they don't have snow days and go out to recess pretty much every day - even when it's well below freezing! Our biggest learning was that they are, as one student decided, "practically the same as us!"
In addition to applying various skills in reading, writing, English, math, social studies, the "soft skills" we used in working together on our research and during our actual Skype session will go far toward preparing these students for what lies ahead.
I'd love for our kids to have more chances for Mystery Skype-ing -- perhaps to do a Mystery Number Skype or to connect with an author or illustrator we enjoy! We'd love to connect with an expert or take a virtual field trip! The possibilities are as wide open as our imaginations!
Recognizing that I am a complete newbie in the world of Skype and there are MANY who utilize this type of learning far more frequently and successfully than me, I still harbor the hope that this might spark someone else to give it a shot! If you want further information, start making your own connections right here:
First up, I'd be remiss if I didn't give credit to Jena Ball for moving me past my fear of Skype after my initial tech troubles in 2011. We connected in 2013 using Skype to learn about authors, illustrators, and the Critterkin family of critters! Currently, her Not-Perfect-Hat-Club offers many ways to connect!
Find out more about using Mystery Skype for global field trips, or participating in the Global Skype-a-thon blitz.
You can get help from teacher-author Paul Solarz setting up a Mystery Skype.
Read a blogpost by teacher-author Pernille Ripp to see how creating Mystery Skype Jobs in your classroom can get everyone involved in a meaningful way.
Check this out for creating STEM lessons using MS to teach geography, complete with a lesson plan!
Be sure to check out Mrs. Yollis' class - they are the ones who lit the spark for me, and if you want to connect with a excited students in a small rural community in southern Indiana - we're your gals and guys!
A wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, lifelong learner, educator