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Cornelia 4th graders engage with schools across the country through Skype

Feb. 7, 2019 - A class of inquisitive 4th graders from Cornelia excitedly gathered in the Media Center early Tuesday morning. Large maps were laid out on the floor and they quickly pulled up images of the United States on their school laptops. Their class was participating in a Mystery Skype, organized by Sherron Gaughan, the media specialist.Cornelia 4th graders studying a map

Mystery Skypes are a part of Microsoft’s Skype in the Classroom program, which utilizes Skype to create educational experiences, such as landmark tours, classroom connections, or video calls with guest speakers. In the past, Cornelia has Skyped with a turtle hospital in Florida, a ranger in a badlands park, and participated in World Read Aloud Day with other schools across the country. 

For a Mystery Skype, Gaughan works with a teacher in another state to setup a time for the classes to Skype. Once connected, the classes take turns asking yes/no questions to try to figure out in which state the other school is located. Questions such as “Is your state west of the Mississippi?” and “Does your state border a Great Lake?” help students hone in on the area of the country the other class resides in. The 4th graders also use visual clues from the Skype call, such as what is outside the classroom windows and how warm the students’ clothing is. 

“Mystery Skype builds students’ cultural awareness, critical thinking, and geography skills,” Gaughan said. “They have to ask strategic questions of the other class dependent on their previous answer. Each student is assigned a job. Students are looking at maps figuring out time zones, rivers, regions, bodies of water, borders, climate, etc.” 

Pouring over their maps and discussing amongst themselves, the Cornelia students were able to correctly guess the other school’s state: Florida. The 4th graders erupted into cheers when their answer was confirmed correct. The Florida class responded with their own correct guess of Minnesota. The students then had the chance to share some facts about their state, such as geographical locations, local animals, and the weather. The kids raised their hands if they had ever visited the other state, and the Florida students were shocked to learn how cold Minnesota had been in the last week. 

As they headed back to their classroom, the students explained how they’d come to their conclusions and how proud they were to have figured out the answer, ready for the next challenge to come their way. Gaughan has been organizing these calls for three years and plans to continue to coordinate these sessions in the future, using technology to connect students with the people and world around them.

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