Our class has been regularly enjoying Mystery Skype sessions for the last few weeks at the request of my students. It is amazing to see the thrill and excitement in the classroom when I tell them I've arranged for us to Skype another class. Learning and conversing with students from another part of the world is really quite something.
I was speaking with a colleague and had to excuse myself to go prepare my laptop for the Skype call when they said, "Well what's the point? Don't they just ask questions and guess where the other class is?" The simplest response - yes they ask questions and guess the other class' location. The more complex one - it is so much more.
We have had the pleasure of learning with students from various parts of Asia, Australia and New Zealand with another one on it's way from Canada (my stepmother's class!). My students have the opportunity to connect globally and begin to understand the world around them.
It's not just about answering a few questions either. We have played mathematics games online with other students using various applications. This past week, our class Skyped our friends in India and shared some songs in celebration of Chinese New Year. For our friends in New Zealand, we had to create a video as a class to give them our clues as the time difference didn't allow us to communicate during our school day. We've also continued the dialogue with some classes using Google Documents to ask more questions about the region and expand our knowledge. We've connected Skype to our unit about communication tools and how communication can be hindered at times. Finally, we've developed our oral communication and presentation skills.
The conversation never ends when the Skype call ends. Just over a week ago we connected with a class in Brunei. Once we hung up, a few students were asking more about what it would really look like in Brunei. I asked the students to go onto Google Earth to find a location within Brunei. Then, they were to go onto Street View. From there, they were able to really to see the different landforms and lifestyle by looking around in 360 views. This also connected to our unit about ecosystems where we started to explore what habitats and animals would be more suited to this region than ours. After a bit of exploration, the students were having so much fun on Google Earth, I couldn't bare to ask them to stop. So I decided to throw a poetry lesson at them using visual images (our current focus on reading and writing). I asked the students to choose anywhere on Earth that inspired them - a place they had been, where they might want to visit someday, somewhere they felt comfortable, or simply a random spot. From there, they had to use what they saw when they zoomed into the surroundings and create a poem and try to incorporate some literary devices we had learnt about earlier in the week. Truly, they created some creative and captivating poetry. Some then took screenshots of their locations to add to their poems in a Google Document or other presentation form. Because of Mystery Skype, it inspired an afternoon of transdisciplinary learning that I had not planned for.
All that from just a 'few questions' and guessing a location.
Available at: https://education.skype.com/
One of the things I never really did last year was reach out to other schools in other countries. As an international teacher with students from around the globe, it's something I feel is important. Students should have an understanding that the world is bigger than they are and that there are others who can help their learning grow outside of just your school community.
In our first unit of inquiry about communication systems, I was talking to my class about how I communicate with my family and friends back home by using Skype and FaceTime even though it was hard with the time differences. So of course, my students wanted to call my family. We set up a time to FaceTime at the start of one of my days and my students fired a ton of questions at my dad, and also my sister and niece who had a guest appearance during the call. Instantly, they loved being able to connect with the other side of the world.
We started mapping our connections we made using Google Maps Engine and plopped down my home onto the map.
Next, I arranged a Mystery Skype call with another school in Thailand. Each class prepared 10 questions to ask the other class. With each question, the class would gather more information and tried to furiously figure out where the other class was from and used their laptops to help them. In the end, we both successfully guessed where the other one was and onto our map went another point.
The students wanted to do another one but I had a harder time arranging one within a time zone we could call during school hours. In conjunction with the other teacher in New Zealand, we decided to create videos for the other class to watch. We each created a video with 10 clues and similarly we had to try and guess where the other school was located. These clues were quite tricky actually and really made students use their mapping skills and research skills online to successfully locate the school. It required a lot of collaboration and discussion amongst my students as well. Once we had guessed, the other school sent us more questions they wanted to know about our class, school and Singapore in a Google Document. With the collaborative feature of Google Apps for Education, we were able to respond easily and then generate some more questions about New Zealand and so on. This was really great to get some dialogue going with students and could be done whenever it was convenient in our class, not just a one time Skype call.
Our last connection so far this year was this past week to a school in Malaysia. This time we decided to mix it up a bit and play a math game between students at each school in small groups. We set up Padlets for each group and the students played a type of 'Guess Our Number' game using place and value. This one had some small bumps with lag time when the students posted responses but still was a fun way to connect and we are hoping we can play again with the school in a similar fashion later in the year.
I love the excitement my students get when trying to figure out where the other class is. Our technology allows us to connect students that never would've been able to connect before with as much ease. It's brought up a lot of discussion about different cultures, countries and quite simply geography. We are looking forward to our next global connection in any form it comes in.