In my role as the Director of Educational Technology at my new school, one of my goals is to facilitate connected teaching and learning in classrooms; I am more than happy to tap into my network and scaffold these experiences for my colleagues and our students. Earlier this year, I helped a fourth-grade class at my new school connect to other classrooms in order to participate in mystery location calls I also organized a video conference using Zoom and streaming live on YouTube with candy expert Jason Liebig (see below) for our Candy Around the World project. It was relatively easy to set up these collaborations because I have developed a professional learning network for many years and also know a few communities where it's possible to connect with other educators. My fourth-grade colleagues now want to learn how to do the same now they have mastered the basic logistics and routines involved with mystery location calls.
Here are a few tips for finding potential connections that can benefit your classroom.
- Mystery location calls are a good, basic way to connect for a specific purpose and can generate a great deal of enthusiasm from students. Jerry Blumgarten's page devoted to this topic is my go-to guide along with his page of educational hashtags. Kids can learn geography and develop global awareness and communication skills with these activities. My recommendation is to keep these structured by developing routines and communicating these to your mystery location call partner teacher.
- It's essential to join Twitter so that you can follow educational trends and connect instantly to other educators. Hashtags are keywords that you can search for and follow within the Twitter platform; you can post requests on Twitter using popular hashtags if you'd like to spread the word about a mystery location call or global project opportunity. Also, many teachers participate in live Twitter chats using these hashtags.
- #edchat is a general hashtag to follow on Twitter, and you also may want to follow ones such as #globaledchat, #ISTEglobalPLN, #globaled, #pblchat, and #mysteryskype. Grade level specific hashtags such as #4thchat or #fourthchat can also help you target your audience. I regularly post opportunities and resources to the hashtag #globaled19.
- Here is an example of how a fourth-grade teacher has put out a request on Twitter for mystery skype partners. Be specific in your requests and make sure to communicate in a timely manner with the teacher of any classroom that you partner with for these activities.
- Besides Twitter, I've also had good luck finding mystery location call partners for my colleagues in the Connected Classroom Google+ community. This group originally started out as a community to support a Google initiative that posted live edu events from cultural institutions to a calendar and now is mostly made up of teachers looking to schedule mystery location calls with others. Keep in mind that Google+ is going away at some point, so you will have to look for alternative communities.
- I run the Global Education Conference Network and people are always welcome to post projects and opportunities to our discussion forum so this could be an alternative place to connect with others. Our network is free to join and I typically re-post any requests to social media to help get the word out.
- I've also started a smaller Facebook group that's connected to our GlobalEd Events Facebook page and this might also be a good place to try. Julie Lindsay also has a great Facebook group called Global Educators & Collaborators where members regularly projects.
- If you are a member of ISTE, check out their Global Collaboration Network (@ISTEGlobalPLN). Members often network with each other and the group hosts monthly webinars in addition to publishing a newsletter.
- With any mystery location call, it's important to keep in mind that it may be wildly impractical for a class in another country to connect with yours due to time zone differences. Depending on your location, it might be easier to connect synchronously with schools in the US or within your time zone. Try using free tools that allow for asynchronous collaboration such as Flipgrid.
- Microsoft's Skype in the Classroom site is another great site for finding lessons, projects, and partners related to Mystery Skype calls.
If you're looking for more information about these type of connections, make sure to check out the following books:
- Connecting Your Students to the World: Tools and Projects to Make Global Collaboration Come Alive K-8 by Jerry Blumgarten, Billy Krakower, and Paula Naugle
- The Global Educator: Leveraging Technology for Collaborative Learning and Teaching by Julie Lindsay
Please share any additional ideas or resources in the comments for teachers just beginning to dabble in connecting their classrooms to the world!