Friday, May 2, 2014

Mystery Hangouts Increase Geography and Problem Solving Skills


Did you ever hear a teacher talking about a Mystery Hangout/Skype before and wonder what it is all about? This concept has been around for awhile, but not having my own classroom and teachers needing my help for integrating iPads in their classroom, I had yet to try one. That has changed recently. With my teachers becoming quite skilled and ready to branch out, we are trying new things in the classroom, with Mystery Hangouts being one of them. Within the last few weeks I have had the joy to assist in several Mystery Hangouts. There are so many reasons why you should get your students involved in this wonderful experience…

First of all a Mystery Hangout or Mystery Skype is when two classrooms from different parts of the world meet with each other via a video conference. We have been using Google Hangouts, but there are certainly other ways to video conference. During the video conference, the classes take turns asking and answering yes/no questions to figure out where the other class is from, hence the word mystery added to the title. Once the mystery is solved by both classes there is usually time to learn about each other. Some classes have interesting facts about their school/town/state all ready gathered to share. Some classes have a Q & A session following the mystery and some classes decide to narrow the search even further and try to solve another mystery by narrowing down the location to the town or city. There is no right or wrong way to do this and it can be a combination of all options, but it is a good idea to decide with the other classroom teacher what you will do after the mystery is solved.

So back to the statement; why mystery hangouts are educational. Some of the benefits for students include… 1. Geography skills - With all of the new standards students must learn and with the focus on literacy and math, map skills have been pushed to the side. During a hangout students are using mapping skills in a real life situation and therefore increase their map skill knowledge. 2. Problem Solving and Collaboration Skills - Nothing like a contest with a group of students they don't know to get students motivated to solve problems and work together to solve the mystery. 3. Communication Skills - Students learn fairly quickly that they need to communicate well with the other class and their own classmates while asking and answering questions. The better they communicate, the better the mystery plays out. 4. Literacy Skills - Depending on how far a teacher takes the concept, a Mystery Hangout can be followed up with students writing a news article about the event. Students could also research information about their community ahead of time to share with the other class. Students could even become pen pals with their new found friends. 5. Engagement, Engagement, Engagement - Need I say more.

It is good practice to have a debriefing session with your students once the call has ended. During this time ask students what went well and what can they do to improve the next mystery. Students have really great ideas once they have the experience and have participated in one.

How do you find a class to conference with? What I did was put the question out to the Twitter World and received a lot of responses. You can use hashtags #MysterySkype or #MysteryHangout. There are also communities set up for this through Google and Skype. See links in the second paragraph of this article.

For more information on jobs for students during the session and other information, click here.


Student Reporters captured the footage to create the following video.