Monday, November 17, 2014

It's No Mystery Why These Kids Were Engaged With Mystery Skype!

Clue Keepers/Eliminators

Imagine a group of students...

* studying maps trying to find specific locations...

* using Google Earth and Google Map trying to find areas of the world that are north of the equator, west of the Prime Meridian and bordering the Pacific Ocean....

* intensively and quietly discussing clues to form questions to pose...

Back Channel Recorders
* carefully pondering answers to questions about one's community...

* using a back channel chat like Today's Meet to record questions and clues for future discussion...

* being conscientious when talking with peers about their community...

* working together and collaborating all in the hopes of being the first school to find the other's location....

Google Mapper in Action!

Think Tank Discussing the Cl
If you can imagine it, then perhaps a Mystery Skype came to mind. Today, I had the honor and the opportunity to work with a group of hyper engaged grade fives in a Mystery Skype. What an action packed 40 minutes!

Ready, Set, Go!

Signals for the other team
Intensely discussing possibilities
Prior to starting, Suzanne Louttit, the grade 5 teacher, reviewed all the jobs and groups of students who would be working together.  These students were not "green" to the Mystery Skype experience, as today's was their sixth "game" this year. In order to keep it fresh, Suzanne mixed up each group. Ensuring that students rotate from job to job, thereby getting an opportunity to work with different groups of students on different tasks.

Some of the jobs and responsibilities that  Suzanne incorporated in today's game of Mystery Skype:

*Inquirers/Greeters - "voice of the class" - Greet and say goodbye. Provide information after the "game" about the class.
*Question Responders - Answer the questions about the community/city/ etc in a YES/NO format, on behalf of the class about
*Think Tank - Ponder the clues and receive information from the Google Mappers, Clue Keepers to help zero-in on the location.
*Google Mappers - Use Google Earth and Google Maps to help zero in on the location using the responses to the questions given.
*Clue Keepers / Eliminators - Eliminate areas on the map of where groups should not look. Often paired with another task, if needed.
*Question Keepers - Write down the questions the home team has asked, as well as the opposing team. Keep the questions on 2 smaller white boards for post-Mystery Skype discussion.
*Recorders - Record the session... clues etc. and perspectives on how it went for further discussion. All recorded via Today's Meet.
*Photographer - Take photos of the event for further sharing and reflection.
*Runners - Run information to all groups about the latest clue.
*Problem Solvers/Information Collector - Record key information about the other school's location for future discussion. Explore everyday problems... ie: What is 85 degrees Fahrenheit in Celsius? What countries use Fahrenheit?
* Many of these jobs may be found on my webpage, be sure to check it out! They may also be found on Langwitches blog post, "The Excitement of Learning"

Timeline for Mystery Skyping

In a post-Skype interview, Suzanne discussed the following time frame when getting involved in a Mystery Skype.
1. Pre-learn about your community: geography, population, economy, information that relates to geographical landmarks or landforms like rivers, mountains etc.
2. Learn about geographical concepts like equator, Prime Meridian, latitude and longitude, as well a cardinal directions.
Clue Keepers narrowing the search
3. Ensure that the students have a good understanding of the expectations of their jobs. Practice the Mystery Skype with another "mystery person" if possible (another teacher pretending to be from another place... etc.)
4. Review etiquette and manners. How to behave prior to the game, during and after the call. For example, how you say goodbye as the teacher moves the computer around, so that all can wave.
5. Find a partner school. Join the Skype in the Classroom group and sign up to participate in a Mystery Skype. (That's what she suggests, however, you can join a Google group for Mystery Skype or even use Twitter - as I explained in previous post).
6. After you find a school who wants to participate in the game, review the time (and time zone!). Discuss the overall format that you are both familiar with. Perhaps have a practice call to ensure that there is a good connection.
7. The day of the Skype call... Check you device speakers to ensure they will play over the data-projector. Ensure all technology (if shared) is booked for your call or any other resources needed.
Multiple Groups in Action
8. Plan for at least 30 minutes for the "game". At the end of the call, let the students of both teams chat about their communities. Have a list of questions prepared for the post-game informal chat. Take the computer on a tour (wifi permitting) to "show" the other class around. You will probably want about 1 hour for pre and post Skype discussion and preparation.
Final search from the Think Tank
9. After the call, be prepared for a post-Skype reflection discussion. This can be in the form of an on-line journal, like a blog post. Discuss questions that the class asked, and how could they can be refined so that the zeroing-in becomes easier. Explore the jobs and the expectations and if there are some aspects that could be improved, or how could the individual improve?

Thoughts on Curriculum Connections

I asked Suzanne what she liked about Mystery Skype and aside from the obvious engagement of the students. As a grade 5 teacher, she found that learning about Canada or "our community" was pretty straightforward as it's part of the Social Studies curriculum. We also explored what about teachers who teach other grades? She stated that the students were learning how to communicate effectively; work collaboratively as inquirers to find a solution to a "problem"; learn transferable skills with mapping; develop digital literacy as well as digital citizenship. Overall the students have also enjoyed just learning about other communities and cultures, the comparisons of these communities with their own and in general have made connections of these locations to what they  read/hear  in the news.

What it comes down to... we can "cover" curriculum and ensure that every outcome is checked off in a tidy worksheet but do we excite kids about learning? Are we developing in our students a love for meeting people of other cultures. Are we getting kids excited about working together collaboratively on a common problem? These perhaps are the greatest considerations.

One final note, what I also loved about this project, was how technology was used in a way so that it wasn't an add-on. Suzanne used iPads for Google Maps, but she also used laminated maps and markers as well as Atlases. Yes, atlases!! She could use a digital tool for every aspect, but interestingly enough, I think there is a place for still knowing how to navigate  an old-fashioned paper map or an atlas in learning. I'm just curious, what are your thoughts on this??

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