Sunday, 22 February 2015

Mystery Skype - Not Just A Geography Lesson

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 view. 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 in 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 some day, somewhere they felt comfort, 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.

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