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Introducing Mystery Skype: A Global Game that Makes Learning Fun!

Are you keen to bring new activities into your children’s classroom? The highly popular game of Mystery Skype is the new educational game that you’re looking for. What’s the aim of the game? It’s simple – two classrooms arrange to call each other on Skype with the goal of guessing the location of the other classroom by asking strategic questions. It’s a great way to learn geography, languages, history, science – even mathematics! If you think that sounds like fun, head over to our special new Mystery Skype page for teachers to get started in no time.

Katy Gartside, a 5th grade teacher at The School at Columbia University, is a true Mystery Skype pro, having completed 30 Skype video calls in less than six months! She and her students love this game so much they created a song and video called “Find Us Maybe” that celebrates this great classroom activity. We spoke to Katy Gartside to learn why she chose to introduce her students to Mystery Skype. Check it out in the video below, but beware, it’s very catchy!

You and your students are Mystery Skype champs, could you tell us about some of the best Mystery Skype moments in your classroom?

After doing a few Skype calls at school and at home, I realized that Skype was this wonderful, free way to connect with people who I can’t necessarily bring into my classroom. All you need is an internet connection, webcam and microphone and you’re ready to go.

When we first started with Mystery Skype, we had no idea what was going to happen. As a teacher, I think the key to doing Mystery Skype is allowing your students to take control of it and being prepared for the unexpected. We had a Mystery Skype call with a school in Sao Paulo in Brazil. That was fantastic because the Brazilian students spoke English as their second language and my kids were amazed at how well they spoke English. It was also the first time we had a call with a big city, before we only called tiny towns in the USA. We ended up doing 30 Mystery Skype calls between December 2012 and summer 2013 with six different countries.

I like to have my students evaluate the new activities that I introduce them to. When asked to evaluate Mystery Skype, they said that it was so much fun and that they learned so much about other countries and how to work together as a team.

How did you make your video with your students?

I kept on hearing Carly Rae Jepsen’s song “Call Me Maybe” on the radio and my kids were singing it too. I thought it would be a great melody to use for our song “Find Us Maybe.” I talked to my kids about my idea and they were really excited to get started. I shared the original lyrics with my kids before the weekend and told them to brainstorm some new lyrics. By Monday, we had a whole new song! Some of the girls in my classroom asked if they could create a dance for the song and they taught everyone else how to dance it. I recorded my kids singing the song to the soundtrack on a tablet and a laptop. I also got my students to record themselves dancing and singing. After watching it, we decided to shoot some more clips of them writing notes on the board, playing with a globe-shaped beach ball, dancing down the stairs – the kids loved making those.

Putting it together was a lot easier than I thought, anyone could do it. You don’t need fancy recording equipment, you can even use your smartphone or tablet device. Get your kids involved in making the film. The more involved they are, the more authentic it will be. I highly recommend it.

What tips do you have for teachers who want to introduce their students to Mystery Skype?

You have to be ready to let your students lead the activity. That is when they learn the most, when they learn that they have to help each other. It’s important to give each of your students a job during the call. There are a lot of online resources about Mystery Skype that explain jobs in more depth. You can also create your own jobs. The first Mystery Skype takes the longest, just be patient, the pace will pick up as you practice. After each Mystery Skype, we have a Q&A session so the students can learn more about each other. They do this by comparing what their school days look like, their favorite books and sports.

What are your plans for using Skype in the new school year?

I’m definitely going to continue playing Mystery Skype with my kids. I have joined the Global Read Aloud initiative too which means we’ll be sharing the books we’re reading with other schools on Skype. I’m also going to do a 12 hour Skype marathon, like I did last year with my previous class. Last year we managed to call 15 schools in six different countries, it was fantastic. I think my students will remember our Skype marathon and Mystery Skype calls more than anything else that we did in our classroom.

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