For my first three sessions, I rearranged my classroom so that my one computer and one projector could show my whole class. We had our set little arrangement of questions, and we were pretty excited to meet other kids. Our Mystery Skypes were fun, but they just weren't as engaging as I had hoped. Chalk it up to something new and different, I thought.
Last year I moved to our new school, and as I thought back on my experience doing Mystery Skype it was kind of .... well, meh. Just meh. I wasn't sure how to make it better, and I wasn't sure how to make it work with my crazy schedule so Mystery Skype went on the back burner last year.
This year I went back to a more traditional teaching schedule with one class of students for most of the day. As I was planning for our study of the US Regions I knew I had to give Mystery Skype a try again; I knew my kids deserved the chance to connect with other students like I was connecting with their teachers. So I thought about giving it a try, but there was nothing set in stone... until last Tuesday. That's when I got a request from a teacher in Illinois and I thought, "What the heck!" and said yes! We were in!
At about the same time, I had the great opportunity to watch the amazing Patti Grayson model the TPACK framework using Mystery Skype. As I was watching her video, I had an epiphany... Mystery Skypes aren't supposed to be pretty and organized. They aren't supposed to be about your whole class getting the chance to be on screen. They aren't supposed to be a predetermined list of questions. So what ARE Mystery Skypes supposed to be?
- They are kids working together in teams.
- They are kids using inductive and deductive reasoning.
- They are kids using geography skills.
- They are kids using communication skills.
- They are kids using listening skills.
- They are teachers running around making sure the tech is working and not even thinking twice about the kids because they are just doing it.
- They are kids feeling excited because they have accomplished something.
- They are kids using technology to talk to others, tweet to others, and discover others.
And that's just to name a few of the things Mystery Skypes are.
What was really cool for me was to see how my kids, once again, just took off. Having developed background knowledge (about Mystery Skypes, about physical features and about map skills) and had many opportunities to work in teams, my kids once again took what they knew and applied it to a brand new situation. As Mr. A. said to me after we ended our call, "I was a little nervous at first, but then I realized I really knew what I was doing, and it was a lot of fun!"
Thanks to Patti and her class we understood the possibilities of what a Mystery Skype could be, and today we ran with it. It was a positive learning experience for all of us, and I know my kids are ready to give it another try!