Connecting – Mystery Hangouts and Mystery Skype

The world has certainly shrunk with technology and it’s a true pity to miss the opportunity to allow our students to connect with it. Especially when learning a foreign language.

A Mystery Hangout or a Mystery Skype might be the solution to this. I gave it a go earlier this year and haven’t stopped ever since.

There are some things to bear in mind before you launch yourself on your first video chat.

The basics
  • Before you start, you’ll need a Gmail account for the Hangout or a Skype account. Log in and make sure your microphone and camera are working properly. You don’t want technical issues to ruin your experience.
  • Find a teacher or class willing to have a Hangout/Skype session with you. You can find some teachers in these Google+ Communities: Mystery Hangout for schools, Connected Classrooms Workshop, or Mystery Location Calls.  The Skype in the Classroom website also features teachers looking for Skyping buddies.  If you use Twitter, you can use the #mysterylocation or #mysterySkype.
  • Make sure your schedules coincide. Check time zones and locations. World Time Buddy is really handy for this, but you can use any online time converter. Remember that Argentina is GMT -3:00.
Prepare your students
  • You can brainstorm questions beforehand and write them down if possible. This will give them enough confidence when the videoconference starts.
  • Remind them they need to speak clearly and politely. There might be some delay, so this is key.
  • Assign roles. When kids know what is expected of them, the chances of them acting out decrease greatly. This will help you have a smooth call. There should at least be  a ‘greeter’ and a ‘closer’ to start and finish the conversation, some ‘question makers’ who ask the preassigned questions, a ‘locator’ that keeps track of the clues on the map, a/some ‘Googler’ who looks up key information that may lead to discovering the mystery location, and some ‘sharers’ who will continue the conversation after the guessing is done by telling their buddies fun facts about their city/country.
The Follow-up

The follow-up activities will depend on what kind of Hangout/Skype you had. Activities can range from very simple ones, like writing an account of the conversation or listing fun facts about the other country/school, to more complex ones, such as presentations or essays. It will all depend on the age and level of your students.




Google Workshop on Internet Safety for Educators

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to take part in Google Argentina’s workshop for educators on Internet Safety. It is truly refreshing to see so many like-minded teachers willing to spend a whole morning during winter break to learn a few tricks to apply in class (and in daily browsing)
Internet safety is definitely something we all deem vital but know very little of. These are some of the things I learnt yesterday.
We need to stop thinking of passwords and start creating passphrases. For example, let’s say your favorite book is One Hundred Years of Solitude. Your password could then be: OHYoS#1967 (the year it was written) This way, your password fulfills all the necessary requirements: 8 characters minimum, upper/lower case letters, special characters, and numbers. And, most importantly, you will remember it.
Two-step verification

Enabling two-step verification is basically adding an extra layer of security to your account, especially those which have sensitive information. Every time you sign in, you’ll be asked to type in your password and also include a specially generated code you’ll be given.  There’s even an app to make your life easier. You can learn more about two-step verification here.

Chrome Safe Search

By turning safe search on, you’ll be making sure your students/kids will not be accessing inappropriate content. It is dead-easy to enable. You just need to visit your settings page. More detailed instructions here.

Youtube Restricted Mode

Worried that your kids/class might watch something inappropriate on Youtube. You can replicate Chrome’s Safe search by turning on Restricted Mode. You’ll find this at the bottom of the home page. Interested? Click here for further instructions.

The Power of Connection

I have been fairly active on social media for some time. Whether on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ (my two favorite ways of building my PLN), I’d always made sure I check posts and keep up with the latest. But I kept having this feeling I was taking the back seat and not really participating actively. Well, that has definitely changed.

Early this year, I posted a question on a Google+ Community and immediately got all kinds of solutions to my problem. It still amazes me how many people are willing to give you a hand, even though they have no clue who you are. One of those teachers who replied was Reinhard, a German Science teacher. A couple of weeks later, he sent me a message, connecting me to a fellow Argentine teacher who was presenting in an ARTESOL conference in Buenos Aires. We ended up meeting for coffee thanks to someone we’ve never met on the other side of the Atlantic.

Fast forward two weeks and I’m taking part of my first Mystery Hangout, where I got to talk to people in the UAE, Oman, India, Argentina, Germany, the US. Mind blowing.

Once you start, there’s no going back. Reinhard invited me to a second Hangout with a US teacher from Ohio who was doing a PD meeting and trying to introduce Mystery Hangouts to her colleagues. You can check out Sebastian’s Slideshare of the Hangout here.

Teaching can be quite lonely at times and the Internet provides you with the possibility of reaching out to like-minded educators. Educators from which you can learn. And who can also learn from you.