Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Mystery Skyping in the Classroom

Today's blogger, Steve Auslander, is a 5th grade teacher at Allisonville Elementary School in MSD Washington Township. He is a Skype Master Teacher, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, PBS Digital Innovator, Class Dojo Ambassador, and an Imagination Foundation Ambassador. His classroom is BYOD, and he shares a laptop cart with his team. 


On November 29th and 30th, Skype in the Classroom hosted their second annual Skype-a-thon with the hopes of encouraging classrooms across the world to connect and travel over three million virtual miles. My students and I were very excited to be part of this global event.

I planned several engaging and academically meaningful calls for Skype-a-thon. We started with a Mystery Skype with Trystan Russell’s 5th graders in Ireland. If you’re not familiar, Mystery Skype is an incredible game where students use geography, problem solving, teamwork, and logic to find the other class’ location before they find yours. We then played a Math Kahoot game over Skype screen sharing with Gina Ruffcorn’s 5th Graders in Iowa. Kahoot is amazing on its own, but it’s even better when you can compete with another class over Skype! Next, my friend brought her VR Goggles and took my students on a virtual tour of Israel, and after that we Skyped with my friend Idan who gave us a tour of his kibbutz! We learned about coding from my friend Kevin from his office at Twitter, and then we played one more Mystery Skype game with a class in Anaheim, California. Skype-a-thon day one was exhilarating! But the best was yet to come.

The next morning we were set to play Mystery Skype with a 5th grade class in Nigeria. Being six hours ahead, our call was set for 8:30 am Indianapolis time. That morning, while at a staff meeting, I received a message from Kemi, the teacher in Nigeria. She had to cancel! She could not find her school’s map! You can’t play Mystery Skype without a map. I thought quickly and came up with plan B. We would play Mystery Number, and we would use each country’s calling code as our number. Nigeria’s code was 234, so we asked questions like, “is your code less than 500” and “Is it greater than 250.”

Once we found each others number, it was time for Kemi’s students to dismiss. We exchanged a very quick “Dab Off” and said goodbye. We were a bit disappointed that we didn’t have time to chat longer so we could learn about Nigeria, but my students did learn two very valuable things. 1) Those kids knew how to dab. We’re more alike than maybe we thought! 2) They only had ONE map, and it’s missing. We are so very fortunate to have so much!

The next day my students decided that they wanted to help their new friends. With the help of my amazing colleague, media specialist Pam Weiger, the students wrote a PTO grant for two maps, a world map and one of Africa. That week, the PTO granted their request, but they made one modification. They added a map of the USA!

I was worried that the package wouldn’t arrive, but it arrived right as the Nigerian students were on winter break. Kemi and I planned a second Skype call, and she would present the maps to her students live with us on the call. My students were so excited, and the call was magical.

Skype in the Classroom has a motto that when we connect classrooms, we can change the world. Because we connected with Kemi’s students in Nigeria, my 5th graders were able to see a need and take action to make the world a little better. I think it was a pretty fantastic lesson!

Visit Skype in the classroom and choose an adventure for your classroom! You can select from exciting Virtual Field Trips, Skype Lessons, Guest Speakers, Mystery Skypes, and Skype Collaborations. The sky’s the limit with Skype. Dive in, and please let me know if I can help!

Here’s my Skype-a-thon video: https://animoto.com/play/YCmNN6wq84n8HSDF7brhtQ

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