Presented by Samuel Jordan, Alaska Department of Education
Written by Laura Guest
My first session of the conference was a session on Skype in the Classroom. Six years ago I attended a session at a different conference and I tried the Mystery Skype once with some degree of success. Samuel talked about the various uses of Skype in the classroom: Virtual Field Trips, Guest Speakers, Mystery Skype, Skype Collaborations and Skype Lessons.
As I sat and listened I decided Virtual Field Trips, Guest Speaker and Mystery Skype are three areas I would be interested in bringing into my classroom. The Mystery Skype is where your students try to figure out where another person or another class is based on asking questions that have a yes/no answer. This would be a great collaboration project with a classroom teacher after they studied the United States (or the world). The content teaching would occur in the classroom (States, capitals) and I would teach how to use resources such as US maps, directions, terms to figure out where the person/class is and the and Skype etiquette. This is the one I tried several years ago but I was clueless as to what I was doing. Next time I would have the kids practice in the library by dividing the class in half and having them “draw a card with a state” from a pile.
My brain tried to figure out how I would find the time to make the connections. As the conference progressed, I realized, I need to stand back and let the kids do it! I am going to log in to my Skype account and pull up the search box for Guest Speakers. I will call on students to suggest keywords to search the database. We’ll write down ones that sound interesting and then let the kids vote on which one we should contact. Students will have to do some research about the topic the person will be speaking about and create intelligent questions to ask the speaker. The questions will be turned in and I will choose a diverse set of well thought out questions (not what color is your car type questions).
We have an Ed Tech department in our district. I will ask them if they will let us practice Skyping with them. We’ll log in and students will listen to a “hello” from the “speaker” and one or two will ask a question or two just to see how it works. Many of the Skypers say the hardest part is when the audience is squirreling around and behaving poorly “just because the speaker isn’t in the room with them.”