Discover the world from your classroom with Mystery Skype

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Discover the world from your classroom with Mystery Skype

What is Mystery Skype?

Mystery Skype is an easy, free and engaging way for classrooms worldwide to interact and find out more about each other through the power of Skype.

Typically, two classrooms arrange to call one another using Skype video. By asking questions, giving clues and listening to each other, students use their map-reading and communication skills to discover the geographical location of the other class.

You can find out more about how Mystery Skype works and find other classrooms to play with, here

"Through the power of Mystery Skype my kids soon realised the reasons they perceived themselves to be ordinary were in fact the things that made them unique."
Gina Ruffcorn, 5th grade teacher, Mondamin, Iowa.

How did it start?

Mystery Skype was developed by educators pioneering the use of Skype in classrooms. Following the 2011 launch of Skype's free education platform for educators worldwide, Skype in the classroom has focused on helping teachers everywhere find and collaborate with each other in easier ways.

The growing popularity of Mystery Skype most recently led Skype to create a home on Skype in the classroom to support teachers further.

You can watch Mystery Skype in action here:

"I think the big thing is letting the kids take control. Have one of the students act as the teacher and one as the supervisor to ensure that the call goes well. This allows them to take ownership of the process. I am only the spectator during Mystery Skype. That, for me, is the biggest thing."
Pernille Ripp, 5th grade teacher, Middleton, Wisconsin

Pedagogical benefits

The popularity of Mystery Skype with teachers and students is largely due to its simple format, one which can be easily adapted for different age groups, languages and subjects. Teachers tailor the activity to fit in with what their class is currently studying, making it a great way to fulfil various curriculum requirements.

Gina Ruffcorn – a 5th grade teacher at West Harrison Elementary School in Mondamin, Iowa – explains why she and her students enjoy Mystery Skype so much:Mystery Skype incorporates the 4Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and, of course, communication, and addresses many areas of social studies benchmarks, speaking and listening standards and 21st century skills.”

You can read more of Gina's thoughts about Mystery Skype in her blog post here

Online education technology forum EdTechReview also raves about the ability of Mystery Skype to open up the world for students, here

And teacher Pernille Ripp describes how playing Mystery Skype almost every week with her students made them all into "Mystery Skype masters", here

Sophie Blackwell uses Mystery Skype with her Year 1 class of five- and six-year-olds at Moorfield Primary School, Ilkley, West Yorkshire. She explains why:

“When I first started using Mystery Skype, I was astonished at how easy it was to connect with such a variety of schools, from all over the world. This was something that could capture the imagination of each and every child, broadening their horizons more than I ever thought possible. We have danced and sung with children in Kenya, shared Guy Fawkes celebrations with American friends, and even learnt Maori! The beauty of Skype in the classroom is that children learn so much without even realising. You can tick nearly every box within the Geography framework of the National Curriculum in the most engaging and unique way. My five-year-olds know the difference between continents and countries, understand time differences around the world and have developed a rich intercultural awareness. To say it has been transformative is an understatement – our Skype adventures underpin everything we do and my children have never been more motivated to learn.”

Etiquette tips

Teacher and blogger Mrs Morgan has plenty of Mystery Skype advice to get your class started. From sitting quietly and looking at the screen so the other class can see your students are paying attention to them, to giving everyone a job. You can read all of her helpful tips here

"Mystery Skype #geography call was one of the most amazing educational experiences I have seen in 15 years of teaching."
Susan Gorman, US history teacher, Grapevine, Texas

Getting started

It's easy to set up a Mystery Skype lesson. All you need to do is create a free Skype account and follow the 5 steps to success below. If your classroom is equipped with a computer, webcam, microphone and speaker, you are ready to play!

5 steps to success

  1. Become part of Skype's global Mystery Skype community by registering your classroom here where you’ll find all the information and tips you’ll need to get started.
  2. Find and start contacting other teachers from around the world who play Mystery Skype, here
  3. If you have a few questions before your first Mystery Skype call, expert teachers make themselves available for free on Skype to help, here
  4. Once you have found your first Mystery Skype partner class, simply agree on a date and time and add each other as Skype contacts before your call.
  5. Share your classroom's exciting Mystery Skype experience with your school and beyond via #MysterySkype.

"I did something in class today that doesn't happen very often. Today, one of my fourth grade classes did a Mystery Skype. I had EVERY SINGLE KID engaged."
Craig Badura, PK-12 Technology coach, Aurora, Nebraska (read his blog here)