I remember my childhood geography lessons. A whole class period was spent memorizing the location of continents and countries, while attempting to imagine something about how other students lived in these faraway places. If my classmates and I were lucky, we had a pen pal that we exchanged letters and photos with through the mail – a long-distance peer with whom we could share our respective likes/dislikes and cultural norms.
Today, individual pen pals are being replaced by Skype classroom pals. With Skype in the classroom, students can instantly talk to and engage with kids in other classrooms halfway around the world. As for geography lessons, Mystery Skype has given those a bit of a digital upgrade as well.
Recently, Today Show host Natalie Morales got to experience it first-hand and see why Mystery Skype is quickly becoming a global phenomenon with teachers. Morales witnessed the magic of two classrooms, 4,000 miles apart, joined together on a Skype video call. She saw how, by asking a series of clever questions, the students could quickly guess where the other was located. And when the guessing was done, she enjoyed national songs performed by each of the countries’ students, in addition to a little language lesson before saying goodbye.
Which countries were they? Take a moment to experience the game through Natalie’s eyes, and you’ll see how goulash became the hit of the day!
The Mystery Skype game makes learning about geography fun. It also offers students a chance to practice other communications and life skills. Children get to practice asking questions and speaking in front of groups, critical thinking, and working in teams to solve problems. Some teachers choose to maintain relationships with classrooms they have played the game with to work together on cultural awareness activities, art projects, or to develop a deeper understanding of a part of the world they are studying.
Westchester County, NY-based teacher Amy Rosenstein who was the teacher from Classroom #1 in our game with Natalie is a huge advocate for using Skype as a part of her lesson plans. “The best thing about Skype in the classroom has really been opening the world to the students in my class.” She continues, “The walls melt away when Skype is used.” Her students simply marvel at the fact that they’ve learned so much about how their peers live, what holidays they celebrate, which sports they like to play and what foods they like to eat.
Being from a small town in Hungary, teacher Gyöngyi Tóthné Bán (aka Dondi) from Classroom #2 believes that Skype in the classroom provides a level of access to other cultures that her students wouldn’t otherwise experience. Thanks to Skype, her classes have communicated with students in Nepal, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Canada and the United States, adventures that she tracks on her Wiki.
To find a class to play Mystery Skype with or to learn more, register at https://education.skype.com/mysteryskype.