Mystery Skyping

I realized that I have meant to blog about Mystery Skyping last year but never actually got around to it! I have done Mystery Skyping with several grade levels and for several reasons. Sometimes it is just for the pure fun of finding out where someone is, sometimes it has been to connect with another class through Skype who are studying a similar topic to us. I have to say I have never been let down by the enthusiasm the students have for this!
This is how I generally do a Mystery Skype.
I start with a lesson on what a Mystery Skype is and how it will work. I talk to the students about how we are going to Skype a class in another location and try to figure out where they are. They usually ask me loads of questions about how I know the teachers and how I set up the Skype session. I tell them about the Skype educators site and that I use it and Twitter to set up the Skype appointments.
I then talk about what it will actually look like and how we will ask them questions. I explain that we will call the other class on the computer that is connected to the whiteboard and then we will ask them questions and they will ask us, until we have a guess. There is always someone who then says well why don’t we just ask them where they live? I explain that the whole point is to make it a mystery that we have to solve.  
Then we discuss what types of questions we want to ask and we begin to create a list. I write down these questions because I have found that giving each student a question on the day relieves a lot of stress for some of them. I usually try to leave this list of questions with the students in the room so that they can add to them until I can get the dates and times settled. We also think about which questions we would ask at the beginning and which we would ask after we know more information.  We talk about how we may need follow up questions that we haven’t planned forl.

I then ask the students how they think we should organize ourselves on the day. They usually come to the conclusion that there need to be different jobs. This is a hard one because the reality is in a class of 20 which is small for most schools, there are not enough jobs, really.  But here are the ones we usually come up with.  

Greeter – Every time I have introduced this one and asked what they should say the person who raises their hand says “Hello, I am … from ACS Egham International School.” at which point the whole class usually says “Nooooo” you can’t say that! Then we decide on what they should say.
Tech Support – To help with getting dialed and if you get kicked off reconnecting.
Maps – I generally try to have several types of maps from iPads, to atlases, to large wall maps for them to use. (3-5 students)
Researcher – These people use the clues that they give us to narrow down the search. (2-4 students)
Note Taker – Write down important things that are said so that the people looking at the Maps can refer back to them if needed. (2-4 students)
Listeners – Help the note takers and the Map readers when they are busy by listening to what is being said and being ready to repeat it. (2-4 Students)
Questions –This is everyone at some point

The other thing that I prepare the students for is technical glitches. I tell them that there might be issues that we can’t solve that come up and cause the Mystery Skype to be cancelled or stopped before we finish. I have one session where we could see and hear them but they couldn’t see or hear us. So, we typed, they talked! It was very slow going but we got there in the end!

Then on the day I have a chair directly in front of the computer for the person who is talking to be close enough to be heard. I remind the rest of the class to whisper so that the other side doesn’t hear us talking. To take deep breaths, calm down and then we call! It pretty much takes on a life of it’s own after that!

Tips that I have-
Discuss with the teacher that you are Skyping what kind of questions you want to ask. Our kids aren’t great with Yes/No questions because we spend so much time asking them to ask more open questions, so the questions that they tend to ask, do not have Yes/No answers. That kind of question is fine if you have talked to the teacher beforehand.  

Put a chair close to the computer so that the person talking can be heard.

Write the questions on a slip of paper so that they can be read instead of memorized.

Have the timid students go early on otherwise their question may not need to be asked and they get out of participating in the speaking aspect.  

Remind students to not all call out the answer because the other side can’t understand it but let the person in the chair near the computer answer.

Tell them not to be afraid to confirm questions or answers before they say anything.

Sit back relax and have fun!