Making classroom magic with Mystery Skype

Originally posted on Skype’s Social Good Blog.

The magic of Mystery Skype can be discovered in a myriad of ways.  Sometimes you don’t even see the trick; it just manifests itself right before your eyes.


Allow me to share an example from my 5th grade classroom. Before Mystery Skype my students never considered themselves or their lives to be of much interest to anyone.  They didn’t believe they had anything unique or special to offer.  Just small town kids in a small rural school district in Mondamin, Iowa.  However, through the power of Mystery Skype my kids soon realized the reasons they perceived themselves to be ordinary were in fact the things that made them unique. As we took part in Mystery Skype lessons, sharing our information and our personal experiences with many others, my students began to view themselves and their community from a new perspective.  They carried themselves differently, spoke more confidently, and held their heads up just a little higher.  It was a magical transformation which was completely unforeseen and unexpected.

Mystery Skype – an educational activity played by two classrooms on Skype, where each has to guess where the other is located – has been described using many words like exciting, engaging and even magical.  Those adjectives are completely accurate; Mystery Skype encompasses all of those concepts and more.

Mystery Skype is most definitely a game-like learning activity, and a fun one at that.  However, it is inarguably a genuine learning opportunity -developed by teachers who adapt the process according to age group, subject taught, and level of expertise. We’ve even introduced ‘Fantasy Skype’ to our classroom. If we’ve completed and enjoyed a Mystery Skype lesson with a particular class and want to interact with them again, we simply both choose a fantasy location and recreate the game that way.

Just this time last year I was a Mystery Skype novice. In the beginning, we encountered a few learning challenges and I worried that my students’ critical thinking skills were woefully undeveloped.  We persevered successfully, and I will start this year with a good amount of Mystery Skype experience and 100 sessions under my teaching belt.  As teachers, we return to the classroom with ideas, hopes and dreams for the new school year. We all make plans to incorporate more innovative, collaborative activities in our classrooms. Mystery Skype should be at the top of the list!

To learn more about how it works and find classes to Mystery Skype with, it’s free and easy to join Skype in the classroom.  Also consider following #MysterySkype if you use Twitter.  If you are interested in the ways I use Skype in the classroom, you can connect with me here, follow me on Twitter, @gruffcorn13 or read more on my blog.  Finally, be sure to check out @SkypeClassroom and #SkypeAtoZ on Twitter for 26 days of lesson-inspiring stories and tips from A to Z in the run-up to back-to-school.

Microsoft in Education has more on my experience with Mystery Skype.

Gina Ruffcorn, the only 5th grade teacher at West Harrison Elementary School in Mondamin, Iowa is obsessed with exploring new ideas and Mystery Skype!

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