Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Mystery Skype: Inviting in an Expert

After attending two sessions at ECOO13 (one by Cathy Beach and another by Andrew Campbell), I worked up the nerve to try Mystery Skype.  Over the last two weeks, two of my classes participated in two different types of Mystery Skypes.  I'm just going to detail one experience here.  (Once I have the photos from my other class's Skype, I'll share!)

Dr. Adara Goldberg "visiting" our class.
 Photo courtesy L. Unger.
My first experience in facilitating a Mystery Skype took place in the course Adventures in World History (CHM4E1).  For this Skype, I invited my friend, Dr. Adara Goldberg, into the class.  She is the Education Director at the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre--so quite a distance from our school in Orangeville, Ontario.

In the case of this Mystery Skype, Adara knew where we were located, so it was just my students trying to figure out where she was.  In the days leading up to the Skype, many students speculated that she was from Europe, since we were discussing the Holocaust and they knew that our guest was an expert on the subject.  The first 10 minutes of our Skype was the students figuring out her location via "yes/no" questions.  It is very important to ensure that your guest doesn't have her location on her profile, because some students saw it!  It is also important not to make mention of your guest's name (even if it is just her first name), because one bright student simply Googled "Adara Holocaust" and up popped her location.  Amateur mistakes!!!  Fortunately, those students confided to me that they knew her location and promised not to spoil it.

Students getting prepared.  Photo courtesy
either L. Unger or Cody F.
For our class's purpose, determining our guest's location was just for fun.  The real reason for our meeting was to give my students an opportunity to speak with an expert about the Holocaust and gather information for the museum exhibits they are creating.  Previous to the actual Skype, students worked on researching their area of interest, in addition to the background work we did in class.  We took some class time to come up with a list of questions to ask Adara.

List of Jobs.  Photo courtesy L. Unger.
Also before the Skype, we decided on jobs for the day of the Skype.  In an attempt to keep things organized, students were responsible for various tasks during the meeting.  For example, Nick was in charge of welcoming Adara and explaining the process.  Jake and Mason were our questioners.  Cody F. was key in taking photos of our adventure.  Additionally, numerous students jumped aboard to add the information Adara shared to our common Google Doc via the Chromebooks.

I got the job list from various sources, but I don't think I need to be so formal.  My students were able to maintain organization without needing certain jobs, such as the boss or runners.  For future Skypes, I think we will be good with some specific jobs, like greeter, closer, and photographer.  I think we will be fine with students taking control of asking questions without them being funneled to a single questioner.  I feel the same way about the note takers.  I think I will have many students take on that role.

The following day, I asked my class for some feedback about the Skype.  Overall, the students were positive.  They said they enjoyed getting information from sources other than the Internet, videos or me.  They also said that they benefited from having specific questions answered.  One student noticed that they needed to improve some of their questions, because they already knew some of the information that the questions focused on.

Overall, the experience of inviting in an expert was a good endeavour and a different way of accessing information for the students.

My next post will detail the Mystery Skype my ENG3U1 class participated in; it was a very different beast than this one.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for letting me come watch this Skype session. I really appreciated the work that you and your students put in before hand to get ready for the session and use the time with the expert well.
    I was impressed with the list of jobs the students had, but I understand your feeling that maybe next time you don't need quite so many formalized jobs. I do think having one or two students asking the questions on behalf of the class helped keep things moving, but it would be interesting to see if the students could handle organizing and turn taking on the fly.
    I love the reflection of the students after the fact. It is a big deal for the students to realize that they needed to improve some of their questions and why.
    I can't wait to read how the English Skype was different.