Sunday, October 6, 2013

Our First Mystery Skype

Mystery Skype

Recently, my students participated in our first Mystery Skype.  According to the Skype education group, "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. It's suitable for all age groups and can be used to teach subjects like geography, history, languages, mathematics and science."

I had heard the term from my twitter PLC but hadn't really looked into it until one of my fellow Global Read Aloud participants, +Jonah Salsich , suggested Mystery Skype as a way to introduce our classes to each other.

We started by introducing the idea to our students.  We talked about the different roles and how important each job was to successfully guessing the location of our mystery Skype school.  We practiced with me secretly choosing a town I knew a little bit about, Duluth, MN, my mother's birthplace.  (It turns out I didn't know as much as I though, but google and Wikipedia were my coaches) my students, each in their assigned job, had to guess where I "was".  They had a lot of fun and learned what sort of questions were helpful. They also learned what sort of things they would have to know about our own location!

So we proceeded to refine our process, mapping out the workflow using Kidspiration, an app by Inspiration Software

Then we had our first mystery Skype!  The kids were so excited! Our greeters welcomes each class o the call without giving away details about our location.  My kids even wanted to keep the blinds drawn so the other class wouldn't see how sunny it was!  The questioners could only ask "yes/no" questions.  The filterer sent the answer back to the think tank through a runner.  The think tank decided what the next question should be based on the answer.  In our debrief, we decided that it would be helpful to have questions planned out like a flow chart...if yes, then.. If no then....

Our mappers were key to our guessing strategy.  They were really great at eliminating whole parts of the world based on answers.  They used the wall map, our Big Blue Nat Geo Atlas (complete with magnifier), and Google Earth & maps.

Our answerers had to prepared to answer yes/no questions about our location.  When they didn't know answers, the filters decided if they knew the answer or needed to send it via a runner to the think tank.  The think tank would use mappers and their own resources to research the answers.  We are lucky to have 1:1 iPads so our mappers and think tank could use the devices for their research.  Our note takers and recorders used Notes on the iPads and our tweeters tweeted with a teacher looking on while photographers used iPads to take pictures and movies. Could we have done it without the iPads? Of course.  Was it more authentic to use them? Absolutely.

Our Skype partners also posted about our Mystery Skype at 

Some of our lessons learned included. 

What Qs were helpful?
  • ●  Are you north or south of some
    landmark, airport
  • ●  Does your state start with A
  • ●  Major water locations
  • ●  Time zone
  • ●  Longitude or latitude
Which ?? were not helpful?
  • ●  Are you near ____ - be more specific
  • ●  Guessing before we had enough
What worked
  • ●  Greetings
    • ○  Memorizing greeting
    • ○  Script helped
  • ●  Cooperated well
  • ●  Runners and filtered worked well together
  • ●  Liked having assigned stations
  • ●  Using sticky notes and sticking with
    assigned locations
  • ●  Think tank stayed put which helped
    them work together
  • ●  Used a “battleship strategy”, narrow
    down area based on clues
  • ●  Paper mappers used landmarks well,
    magnifying glass worked well
  • ●  More practice helped, two cameras
    were good
  • ●  Reporter/notetaker located close to
    each other
  • ●  Note takers working well, mostly did our
    own jobs,
  • ●  At front table all did their jobs, runners
    did great
  • ●  It was noisy but people were working
    really hard
What suggestions for next time 
          ● Greetings
          ○ Louder voices for skypers, if memorized, still have script
           ●  One more runner for each Q and A
  • ●  Have questions prepared for both yes
    and no response
  • ●  Do more research about our own city,
    state, etc.
  • ●  Better way to call runners so we can get
    answers faster
  • ●  Answering in complete sentences
  • ●  Filters need a set of questions ready,
    that they can determine if appropriate
  • ●  Test technology ahead of time
  • ●  Video tape next time
  • ●  Reporters feed info to tweeters
  • ●  Suggestion to keep quieter so everyone
    could hear what was being asked
  • ●  one more supervisor – one for front
    table, one for TT and one for maps
Have a back up plan for people being absent TT = think tank, Q or ?? = questions
What didn’t work?
  • ●  We broke the first rule,
  • ●  Sometimes did not follow jobs
  • ●  Sometimes we didn’t know what ??s
    were being asked/answered
  • ●  TT and runners were arguing about Qs,
    Qs were not always prepared , hard to come up with Q when it was so loud and rushed

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