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Mystery State Skype

Mystery State Skype isn't a new idea, it's basically taking learning geography and placing it in a game format like Twenty Questions via Skype, by asking questions to guess the location of the other classroom. Not only does this connect students from across the country (or globe), but it also gives a context for students to apply geography with critical reasoning, collaboration, communication, digital citizenship, and information fluency -- 21st century skills.

Skype in the classroom
Learning standards

What should your students research? I recommend looking at your standards to know what is expected of your students as a starting place.
Create a graphic organizer to guide their research, or adapt this Google Doc for your needs.

Preparing for the Mystery Skype

Setting up the Mystery Skype

There are many places where you can sign up for a Mystery Skype. Here's a few:


  • Check time zone differences.
  • Set up a test call a few days before the event to make sure the technology is working, and to confirm the Mystery Skype day and time.
  • Double check how the teacher wants to do the Mystery State Skype. There are several variations of Mystery Skypes such as using yes/no questions or clues. The questions your students create will reflect what variation of Mystery Skype you do.

21st century fluencies

What 21st century skills will students use?
  • Research and Information Fluency: Do students know how to search for valid and reliable information?
  • Digital Citizenship: Have they been introduced to Skype etiquette
  • Critical Thinking: After researching, organize the information as questions in a logical order. To add an extra element to the research, have students make a list of the states that fits the question and add it to the map. Then when they ask questions in the Skype ("Is there a NBA basketball team in your state?") they can use it to eliminate/include states. 
  • Communication and Collaboration: Have collaboration norms been established?
What 21st century skills might also be addressed/included in the Mystery Skype?
  • Research and Information Fluency: Do students know how to use Google Maps?
  • Digital Citizenship, Communication, and Collaboration: Will you have students typing up questions and answers on a backchannel? If so, are they aware of what's expected of them as digital citizens
  • Technology Operations and Concepts: Do students know how to troubleshoot if the sound doesn't work? Do they know how to check the Skype preferences and then the computer hardware preferences for the microphone?


The roles you assign students will really depend on what tools you have available and best fits your students' needs. It's also important to make sure all of your students are allowed to be on camera prior to the Mystery Skype (check for non-disclosures).

  • Click here for a template with the steps as well as roles.

Going deeper

When the Mystery Skype is over, it's so important to go deeper by reflecting and connecting back to the learning.

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano created this assessment of learning graphic organizer for a Mystery Skype.

Final thoughts

Focus on the critical thinking and the learning. Help students think through their reasoning while not giving them the answers.

Mystery Skypes should be a fun and engaging way to apply their learning for a real purpose and audience.

  • What questions do you have about Mystery Skyping? 
  • What insight or resources will you add to this conversation?
  • How else does this post connect with you?


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