Do you like challenges? More specifically, do you like geographic challenges?Then I think you would be interested in learning about #MysterySkype. Why the hashtag? #MysterySkype is a Twitter hashtag that teachers have been using to set up connections between their classes. The challenge is for students to guess the location of the other class by asking yes or no geographic questions. There are also spin-offs to #MysterySkype such as #MysteryAnimal and #MysteryNumber. Anything can become a mystery — how about a #MysteryElement from the periodic table?
While students are actively engaged in game play, they are developing critical thinking, problem solving and mapping skills. An additional benefit for students is to converse and learn about the other students’ cultures and school traditions once the locations have been discovered.
At the beginning of every seventh-grade computer class, without fail, I am asked, “Do we have a Mystery Skype today?” and if the answer is “yes,” students are brimming with enthusiasm. If it’s a “no,” they want to know when the next one will be.
There are several reasons why students are motivated when playing #MysterySkype. First, it’s a challenge! Who doesn’t want to be the first to guess the other students’ location? Second, students love getting a glimpse into other students’ classrooms and learning about their lives. Recently, students in a French 2 class did a #MysterySkype with students from Switzerland, asking and answering questions to practice French. Our students were surprised to learn that they all spoke English as well as Swiss German and were learning French as their third language.
While most #MysterySkype calls have gone off without a hitch, we have encountered a few hurdles. Once, another class discovered us by Googling “Oak Knoll” after seeing it on a student’s sweatshirt. Since then, we have been better about covering up any potential identifiers.
Recently, students in a ninth-grade computer class exclaimed that they felt like they were “friends” with a class of ninth-graders from Illinois with whom they had done a #MysterySkype. The students in both classes asked to keep a connection going. Thus, the idea of a collaboration between both classes has begun and last week, during a Skype call, students talked to each other and created Flipgrid videos with information about themselves to share. Now, students are building deeper connections with another class of students, much like pen pals, albeit in a whole class setting and using videos. Thus, a whole new adventure is beginning. Stay tuned!