Guest blog by Gina Ruffcorn, a 5th grade teacher at West Harrison Elementary School in Mondamin, Iowa, who is obsessed with exploring new ideas and Mystery Skype!
The magic of Mystery Skype can be discovered in a myriad of ways. Sometimes you don't even see the trick; it just manifests itself right before your eyes.
Allow me to share an example from my 5th grade classroom. Before Mystery Skype my students never considered themselves or their lives to be of much interest to anyone. They didn't believe they had anything unique or special to offer. Just small town kids in a small rural school district in Mondamin, Iowa. However, through the power of Mystery Skype my kids soon realized the reasons they perceived themselves to be ordinary were in fact the things that made them unique. As we took part in Mystery Skype lessons, sharing our information and our personal experiences with many others, my students began to view themselves and their community from a new perspective. They carried themselves differently, spoke more confidently, and held their heads up just a little higher. It was a magical transformation which was completely unforeseen and unexpected.
About Skype in the classroom
Skype in the classroom is free global teaching community. It helps teachers create and find a variety of transformational and engaging experiences for their students through the use of Skype. It's free, quick, and easy to join at www.education.skype.com.
Mystery Skype – an educational activity played by two classroom on Skype, where each has to guess where the other is located – has been described using many words like exciting, engaging and even magical. Those adjectives are completely accurate; Mystery Skype encompasses all of those concepts and more. However there is one thing that Mystery Skype is not. It is not a mere time-filler. The very idea that Mystery Skype could be viewed as a fluffy activity to pass time is ludicrous. I have had this discussion more than once and I have answers to stifle the hardiest of naysayers.
First, Mystery Skype addresses many areas of Common Core standards. Social Studies benchmarks, Speaking and Listening standards and 21st century skills can be met through the use of Mystery Skype. It incorporates the 4Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and of course communication. Ah, that may all be fine and good you think, but what about assessing the activity?
Well, evaluation can be done summatively or formatively. Let me share a student response from a formative assessment in my class that demonstrates this.
The skills I have now from my experiences.
- I have learned how to build teamwork with my whole class
- I have learned how to use multiple technology web sites including Bing maps and multiple different sites.
- I have learned how to be a moderator (greeter), technician (tech), question keeper, supervisor, weasel and timer
- I have also learned to solve multiple issues and problems as the supervisor and tech
- I have learned to watch how I word things to speak to the other class so I'm not being rude
The things I know now that I learned from our sessions.
- I have learned to always listen to others opinions and suggestions because they might have a better ideas
- I know that I have to pay attention, be on task and be well organized all of the time
Mystery Skype is most definitely a game-like learning activity, and a fun one at that. However, it is inarguably a genuine learning opportunity -developed by teachers – that meets Common Core standards and assessment criteria. Teachers adapt the process according to age group, subject taught, and level of expertise. We've even introduced 'Fantasy Skype' to our classroom. If we've completed and enjoyed a Mystery Skype lesson with a class and want to interact with them again, we simply both choose a fantasy location and recreate the activity that way.
Just this time last year I was a Mystery Skype novice. In the beginning, we encountered a few learning challenges and I worried that my students' critical thinking skills were woefully undeveloped. We persevered successfully, and I will start this year with a good amount of Mystery Skype experience and 100 sessions under my teaching belt. As teachers, we return to the classroom with ideas, hopes and dreams for the new school year. We all make plans to incorporate more innovative, collaborative activities in our classrooms. Mystery Skype should be at the top of the list!
To learn more about how it works and find classes to Mystery Skype with, it's free and easy to join Skype in the classroom. Also consider following #MysterySkype if you use Twitter. If you are interested in the ways I use Skype in the classroom, you can connect with mehere, follow me on Twitter, @gruffcorn13 or read more on my blog. Finally, be sure to check out @SkypeClassroom and #SkypeAtoZ on Twitter for 26 days of lesson-inspiring stories and tips, from A to Z in the run up to back-to-school.