Students in Signal Mountain Middle/High School teacher Hayley Wood's Computer Technology and Design class have been using student-led "Mystery Skypes" with other classrooms across the globe to improve their geography and critical-thinking skills through technology.
A Mystery Skype involves students in two classrooms located in different parts of the world using Skype to communicate with one another, with each classroom taking turns asking the other "yes" or "no" questions with the goal of being the first to correctly guess the other's location.
"Due to the fact that Signal is an IB [International Baccalaureate] school, I am always searching for ways to incorporate international-mindedness into my classroom," said Wood, as to why she uses Mystery Skypes as a teaching tool in her classroom. "I strongly believe that a Mystery Skype is an excellent way to accomplish this goal, while also creating a highly engaging learning environment for the students."
The class recently participated in its third Mystery Skype session, in which the students competed against a fifth-grade class in Canada.
Prior to the Skype session, students come up with general questions that will give them clues as to the other school's location. They share their questions with other students in their own classroom via a Google Doc to avoid repeating questions.
During the Mystery Skype session, two students are charged with asking the questions, while the others use resources on their computers, such as Google Earth or search engines, to answer the other classroom's questions and to help themselves ask questions that will reveal the other group's location.
Examples of questions Wood's students asked the Canadian classroom included "Do you live in the Northern Hemisphere?" "Are you touching the Great Lakes?" and "Are you north of 60 degrees north latitude?"
Wood said she connects with other classrooms interested in participating in a Mystery Skype session by reaching out through Twitter, using the hashtag #mysteryskype.