Where in the world are you?

Let me find out. Are you east of the Mississippi? Are you in one of the 13 original colonies?


These are the type of questions 4th graders in Wisconsin’s Vesper Community Academy asked to find out the location of another “mystery” school during a video chat in March. Through the power of enabling technologies – in this case, video – schools are taking project-based learning outside of the classroom to the world beyond.

The game is Mystery Skype, and it’s gaining steam in schools across the country. Students engage in a Skype conversation with students from another school – and they have no idea of that school’s location. The goal is for the team at each school to use critical thinking, inquiry, geographical knowledge, and cooperation to figure out the other school’s location within an allotted time.

This is an example of an exciting way educators can use technology to maximize the effect of project-based learning. For students to figure out the location of the other school in Mystery Skype, they take on roles with practical responsibilities such as Googler, question keeper, mapper, and local expert. They work as a team and ask questions with very little guidance from an adult. As VCA teacher Becky Sturdy states, “…we’re giving kids an opportunity to answer questions for themselves and research and learn on their own, independently.” And with video technology, each team can actually see how their teamwork interacts with students from around the world – an exciting opportunity indeed.

The 19 4th graders at VCA figured out in four minutes that the other school was located in Kentucky. Afterwards, both schools talked to to each other about the things they liked most about their states. Not only did the kids learn, but it sounds like they all made new friends as well! As we see, there are simply no limits to the amount of collaboration, learning, and skill building that can be achieved with project-based learning combined with enabling technologies.

Globe Image from http://www.clker.com/clipart-2172.html (Public Domain)