Mr. Bahlmann’s 4th grade class at Deane Elementary sits on the edge of their seat while the familiar tune of Google Hangouts rings throughout their classroom.
“Oh no!” says Digital Teacher Librarian Keri Douglas, “It looks like they’re not available.”
Not to fear, a chat box quickly pops up saying, “We need five more minutes to get ready. We transitioned late”. Another teacher somewhere across the country prepares her students to begin. Suddenly, her smiling face appears for the class to see on the projected screen and she announces the beginning of the Google Mystery Hangout.
Google Mystery Hangouts is a critical thinking event in which students from across the country or globe try to determine the location of the other class through asking a series of questions and responding through video chat. Think of the familiar game of 20 questions; now add on: digital tools, geography skills, collaboration, listening and speaking skills, decision making, and data analysis.
The power of Google Mystery Hangouts to incorporate these 21st century learning skills in an authentic way is the driving force behind its popularity. Ryan Livingston, the Digital Teacher Librarian at Patterson International, an IB school, is always looking to make global connections. After joining the Mystery Hangout G+ Community, Ryan found educators in Bogota, Colombia available to connect with his students. Students as young as first grade participated in a Mystery Hangout incorporating their math curriculum. Instead of guessing geographic locations, each class used the hundred chart and wrote series of equations to determine the mystery number. (Photos from this event)
Ryan is most impressed with “what it’s doing for kids... the questioning, inferring, and analyzing what they are hearing and watching. It is the thinking skills that Mystery Hangout promotes.” He already has plans to utilize a Mystery Hangout for the upcoming 4th grade Colorado History unit. He is spreading the word to other DTL’s in the district, including Keri Douglas at Deane. Which brings us back to our 4th grade classroom.
“Are you west of the Prime Meridian?” The first question is posed. Students use their understanding of major grid lines on the globe to narrow down the continent first. The 4th graders at Deane Elementary are prepared as researchers. Each student has their iPad on their desk with Google Maps and Google Earth open in addition to a laminated paper map. Students move between tools, conferring with one another, and posing new questions to ask. The students in the role of recorder skip around the room gathering the next question. Cheers are heard as each answer brings the class closer to discovering where the mystery class is located.
Mr. Wes Jones, student teacher from Colorado Christian University, comments at how the engagement of students is so high! Students are incorporating their learning from the 4th grade Social Studies unit Understanding Region along with ISTE technology standards of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, and decision-making. This event was a natural fit for Keri and Derek to co-teach and collaborate to authentically bring technology into their learning.
This Mystery Hangout successfully comes to an end as the Deane Elementary Huskies wave goodbye to the classroom located in Texas. Geographically separated by miles, today the classrooms were only a click away.
If you are interested in connecting with educators across the globe, join the G+ community to learn more!