I had heard of Mystery Skype sessions for many months while trolling social media. Last April, Heidi Harris (@heidibobeidi), a teacher in Lincoln, Maine, contacted me on Twitter to see if we were available for a Mystery Skype session. I checked with our 8th grade social studies teacher, Mr. Brooks Lee, to see if he would be interested in allowing one of his classes to participate in the event. He was very intrigued by the idea, so I set out to investigate exactly how one of these sessions needed to work. Mrs. Harris was very helpful and sent me a link to a blog that contained a video showing how to set up the library. I shared this video with Mr. Lee, so he could show it to his students.
We decided to set up these station areas in the library: Inquirers/ Responders (all at the webcam), Atlas Checkers, Google Map Checkers (both iPads and laptops), Logic Reasoners (these individuals decide which questions to ask next), Photographers, Video Camera Operators, Question Keepers, and Runners (to relay information).
Mr. Lee's class met in the library the day before for about 20 minutes, so we could go over the different jobs in the library. He had students submit their requests for which jobs they wanted. It ended up with this breakdown for personnel in each position:
Inquirers/ Responders- 4
Atlas Checkers- 3
Google Map Checkers- 5
Logic Reasoners- 3
Video Camera Operators- 2
Question Keepers- 2
The goal was to discover the other school's location by using questioning techniques with yes or no answers.
The day of the session arrived, and everything fell right into place. The students seemed to know exactly what to do! We started the session, and you could feel the excitement in the room as questions were answered. The question keepers typed the answers on a computer connected to a projector displaying for all to see. It took about 30 minutes for both schools to complete discovering each other's location.
At the end of the session, most of our students rushed the screen to communicate with the classroom in Maine. They asked questions about their state, and Mrs. Harris did a great job of reaching out to our students! She shared information about their town and school. Our students shared about our location in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Mr. Lee and I just stepped back and let the kids take the conversation with Mrs. Harris. It was so exciting to see them completely engaged in this new activity.
Mr. Lee had the students share their reflections after the session. Here are some of the highlights:
“I liked the Mystery Skype. It helped us learn about the country and more about Maine. The Mystery Skype was interesting and unique. I enjoyed using deductive reasoning to narrow out the state, city, and school.”
“The Mystery Skype today was so cool!!! I never knew it even existed before today. I enjoyed watching our class problem solve to try to figure out where they lived.”
“I very much liked this experience! I got to meet new people from a different state and learn what they eat and do there! I would love to do Mystery Skype again! Thank you for letting me experience this wonderful activity!”
“Very interesting Skyping a school from another state. It became very exciting when we would get close to their general area. We would love to do this assignment again. Google mapping was fun.”
We need more engaging learning activities like this to allow students to problem solve and work as a team. It was a great day that reminded me why I teach… to help engage and inspire young minds in the library media center!
Stony Evans is a school library media specialist at Lakeside High School in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He earned his MS in Library Media and Information Technologies from the University of Central Arkansas. Visit his blog, email him at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @stony12270.
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