Even though most of my rural East Tennessee high school students have little travel experience, this year they have already spoken to students in Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Peru.
My students participate in a new game called Mystery Skypes, the latest rage in the world of Skyping. Mystery Skyping can open the world to students in rural communities such as ours and bring the world into our classroom.
What is MysterySkyping?
Students attempt to guess with yes/no questions where the other class is located in the world. The class that guesses the correct location first is the winner. Then they share information about their communities. Sometime projects are exchanged, leading to a yearlong relationship. We regularly share video projects with a class in the Dominican Republic, for example. We also received interesting websites from Argentina and some spectacular photos from Lima, Peru.
What is needed in order to Mystery Skype?
The teacher needs to set up a free Skype account. The classroom needs to be equipped with a computer and a projector, in addition to a webcam and a good microphone. Teachers may also want to have a camera to take pictures of the session. Students need access to online maps that can show smaller regions and towns if necessary. We were completely surprised that our small town was even listed on a map in Argentina.
Why should a teacher consider setting up Mystery Skype sessions?
- Practice speaking a foreign language they are studying in real life conversations.
- Learn about World Geography.
- Consider others’ points of view.
- Learn to communicate with international students.
- Get excited about attending class.
- Engage in their learning; take an active role in class.
- Learn to appreciate other cultures.
- Develop a global way of thinking.
- Learn about schools and student life in other countries.
How can a teacher find Mystery Skype partners?
The easiest way to locate participating teachers is to go on http://education.skype.com. The site allows teachers to search for contacts by grade level and countries. Once teachers find a good prospect, they can message or email each other and set up a time that is mutually convenient, taking the time difference into consideration. Once we began Skyping with other classes I actually became overwhelmed managing all of the sessions and had to space them out more. Teachers also have to keep in mind that the teacher in the other country may have his or her own ideas of what should be accomplished in the sessions.
Mystery Skyping has been an awesome experience in my Spanish classes. I have several more such sessions lined up over the next few months and can’t wait to see my students’ faces when they figure out where the other classes are located in the world. We have a large colorful map posted by the computer and pin the city of each new country where we have a Mystery Skype session. Amazingly, students who used to be very shy and claimed they would never participate in speaking to “total strangers” are now the ones who are most excited about Skyping and can’t wait to do it again. The world is at our fingertips. Going global through Mystery Skyping brings the world even into my rural East Tennessee classroom.
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