A Mystery Skype lesson involves students in a strategic guessing game. Two classrooms arrange to connect with each other using Skype video calling, and then ask Yes/No questions to discover each other’s locations. It’s popularity with teachers and their students owes a lot to the simple format of the activity. Mystery Skype can be adapted for students of any age, and can be tailored to fit any subject. Our hope is that after experiencing Mystery Skype, teachers will be excited to use Skype to connect their classrooms to students around the world.
In a Nutshell…
- A Skype video call is received from a partner class, but neither class knows the location of the other.
- Students collaborate using maps and critical thinking skills to construct Yes/No questions to ask in order to determine their partner class’ geographic location.
- Students build inquiry skills, learning how to formulate questions that will further their learning.
- The role of the teacher is to facilitate – to help direct the Skype call, and to encourage students to use the information they gain to formulate questions as they learn.
Resources to Download
Mystery Skype Job Cards - Print a copy of each job and place it on the table where students will be seated, or print enough to handout one job card to each student. These help keep students on track, and help you remember what each student should be doing as well!
Mystery Skype Classroom Job Name Badges – (Word Document) Formatted to print as 3 x 4 labels (Avery 5392) - Stick one of these on each student to help everyone stay on track with their job assignment.
Question Stems - for first-time, and K-2 Mystery Skypers
Helpful Responses - to hold in front of the camera when audio is muted or not working
Looking for a Partner Class?
Beyond the official Mystery Skype page (which is a great place to find a partner class, btw!) there are a few other helpful places to look for a Mystery Skype partner. The Global Connection Wiki is one of the simplest places to enter your information & Find a Class to connect with other educators interested in Skyping. Another way to connect would be sending a tweet out to#SkypeMT (Skype Master Teachers,) #MIEExpert (Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts) or #GoogleEI (Google Education Certified Innovators) to connect with some amazing educators!
Before the Call
Before your first Mystery Skype call, you’ll want to be sure you have access to a webcam and that your audio/video settings are configured properly. It’s a good idea to conduct a test call either with your partner teacher, or with another Skype user to ensure everything is working properly. In Lamar CISD, we like to mount a web-cam on a tripod and place it in the front of the classroom (using a USB extension cord, if needed) so that students can view their partner class on their Promethean or Smart Board. If you’re a LCISD teacher – contact your CITS to check out these tech items!
As a “best practice” it’s a good idea to change your city/state location in your Skype profile to “Mystery Skype” instead of letting it say “Rosenberg, Texas” (or wherever you’re from) otherwise even young tech-savy students will quickly sus out your location!
You’ll want to prepare your students for the activity by giving them an overview of the Mystery Skype jobs. It’s also a great idea to conduct a “dry run” by having your class work together to determine a location on the globe that you’ve chosen, so that they can practice their Mystery Skype job. Optional resources that you might want to have on hand during the call include:
- Dry Erase Boards & Markers - These are helpful to have around so that students can quietly write notes to one another, or answer one another’s questions as they work to come up with a question for the partner class. They’re also helpful for communicating a message to the partner class when audio has been muted, or is not working.
- Sticky-Notes - for students in the Think Tank to write down potential questions
- Large Graphic Organizer - After your class has asked a question, it’s helpful to track the question by posting it onto a large Graphic Organizer with “Yes” and “No” labeled at the top. Large chart paper, or chalkboard/dry erase board work well for this purpose.
- Laminated Maps - It’s nice to have a few large, laminated maps that students can write on with dry erase, or vis-a-vis, markers in order to narrow down their search field as their partner class answers each question.
Mystery Skype Jobs
- Greeter – Greets the other class by introducing our class and reviewing the Mystery Skype rules. At the end of the call, the Greeter will be the one to thank the other class, and close out the call. During the call, the Greeter is part of the Think Tank
- Think Tank – All students in the class who are not doing another job. The Think Tank does research, creates questions for the Inquirer to ask, and approves answers to be sent to the Answerer.
- Questioner– Ask Yes/No questions of the other class. (All questions must be able to be answered with a yes or a no.)
- Responder– Answers Yes/No questions from the other class.
- Runner – Pass questions/answers from the Think Tank to the Inquirer & Answerer.
- Tracker – Keeps track of all questions asked and answers received from both sides
- Mappers – In charge of using Atlas/Google Maps/Wall maps etc. to zero in on clues
- Photographer– Captures the call by taking photos/video & posting to class blog.
- Tweeter– Tweets play-by-play action during call
During the Call
After a brief welcome, and introduction (by the Greeter) of each class, a coin is tossed to determine which class will ask the first question.
NOTE: All questions must be answered Yes/No
Classes take turns asking (Inquirers) and answering (Answerers) questions. All students should be participating as described according to the roles listed above.
Once a class has “won” by determining the location of the other class, classes can continue to share a few more interesting details about their daily lives, school routines etc. They may pose open-ended questions to their partner class in order to learn a bit more about them.
The Greeter will thank the other class for connecting, and close out the call.
After the Call
Once you’ve finished, take the time to talk about what worked well, and what could have been done to make things easier, or to improve the Mystery Skype call. Prepare to be surprised at how your class evaluates their own performance, and the environmental/procedural changes that could be made to make things smoother!
Helpful Hashtags & More
- @SkypeClassroom – Twitter handle for Skype in the Classroom – a free global community of teachers working together to create inspiring Skype lessons
- #MysterySkype – Lots of teachers follow this hashtag and use it to connect.
- #Skype2Learn – This hashtag is used for Mystery Skype as well as other types of Skype lessons.
- #SkypeMT – Skype Master Teachers are experts at using Skype in education. Using this hashtag will let them see your request and help you find a connection.
- #MIEExpert – Hashtag followed by Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts around the world! Tweet a question, or connect with teacher who has been commended by Microsoft for being an expert educator!
- #GoogleEI – Hashtag followed by Google Certified Innovators, a group of teachers and educational leaders commended by Google for their outstanding commitment to education.
- #GlobalLearning – Teachers from around the world who connect their classrooms for global projects follow this hashtag.
- #edtech – General hashtag for all things educational technology
- #disted – General hashtag for all things distance education
- Skype for Education - official website
- Mystery Skype – official website
- Skype Call – Learning Call – Another great blog post by LangWitches