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Mystery Skype (or Mystery fill-in-the-videoconferencing tool)

My 4th grade team is about to embark on their first Mystery Skype. If you are not familiar with Mystery Skype, I will tell you that it is an excellent way for students to connect with learners in other classrooms. Basically, a Mystery Skype is when you use Skype (or Google Hangouts or whatever videoconferencing tool is available to you) to contact another classroom and neither class knows where the other is located. Students take turns asking the kids in the other class yes or no questions to try and figure out where the other class is located. Mystery Skypes are great fun, involve the whole class, and get students working collaboratively and thinking critically. Although there is some prep involved, especially before the first time you do it, as you explain to the students what they will be doing, the actual call goes fairly quickly, about 20-30 minutes.

Once you have the system down, less prep is needed. Students soon learn what to ask to pinpoint the location of the other class. They will also learn how to use geographic vocabulary, how to work with students of other cultures, and their collaboration skills will improve.

Here is a very brief list of some Mystery Skype resources. There are many more out there. I also highly recommend Twitter if you are looking for a classroom to connect with.

When are we gonna do that again? by Craig Badura
4th grade Mystery Skype sign up page
So you want to do Mystery Skype? by Pernille Ripp
Skype jobs video and chart
Edudemic: 5 amazing ways to collaborate with another class
Mystery Skype page from
Mystery Skypes

One great hint I learned from Holly Clark at CUE Rockstar Solana Beach: When doing a Mystery Skype, make sure your classroom flag is not visible to the other class. It narrows down the country pretty quickly!

Tech Tuesday: Using Weather Apps


“…after all it is more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be” (Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth).

Perhaps. However, weather is an important area of study for our students. They examine different aspects of weather as early as kindergarten. The weather apps on the iPad can help with this, but they also allow students to do much more. All require an internet connection to download current weather.

InstaWeather Pro (regularly $1.99; free for a limited time) adds a weather overlay to your images. You can take your own pictures or use images from your camera roll, apply the skin, and then share.

Educational applications: Class weather book, compare predicted weather with actual weather, add weather to 365 project photos, tweet your weather, take a picture of the same plants at regular intervals and see how weather affects their growth, etc. Matt Gomez is using it to document the weather in his Texas kindergarten classroom.

Apple‘s default weather app and other similar apps* can be used not only to check the weather, but may be incorporated into the curriculum in a variety of ways. The possibilities are endless. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Mathematics ideas: Use a weather app and Easy Chart (basic version is free for iPhone, also compatible with iPad; $0.99 for iPad HD version or iPhone advanced pack to add more functionality) to compare temperatures or wind speeds over time, in different places, or at different times of day. Compute mean, median, and mode of high or low temperatures over the course of a week. Give students a temperature and have them try to find a city with that mean temperature this week. Graph the difference between expected highs and lows.
  • Language arts ideas: Use the information from the weather app to list facts or write an informational paragraph. Write about how the weather influences your activities. Use the InstaWeather image as the background for a haiku or weather-related senses poem. Create a PuppetPals video to explain a weather phenomenon.
  • Social studies/science ideas: Compare local weather to weather in other parts of the world. Use one of the video capable apps to observe the ways weather moves across the continents.

*For example, there are apps by the Weather Channel, Weather Underground, AccuWeather, Weather +, WeatherBug, and others.

Please share the ways you might use weather apps in your classroom in the comments.
Image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures from

Originally published on Technology at Chaparral.

Tech Tuesday: Puppet Pals HD

Puppet Pals icon

App: Puppet Pals HD (Free)
Subject: All
Grade level: All

What it is: An animation and story-telling app for the iPad that comes with several characters and backgrounds. Students select characters and backdrops, then create a movie by moving the characters with their fingers while recording narration or dialog.

Upgrading to the Director’s Pass version ($2.99) provides access to many more characters and backdrops from the developer and also allows users to create their own puppets and scenes.

Educational applications:

  • Demonstrate understanding of a lesson
  • Create a news story about a current or historical event
  • Provide opportunity for ELL students to use language in an engaging way
  • Create presentations for classroom projects
  • Reader’s theater or poetry reading for fluency
  • Persuasive writing
  • Many, many more; please share in the comments if you have a wonderful idea

How to share with the outside world:

  • Save your project
  • Export it to the Camera Roll
  • Open it in the Camera Roll and email it or upload it to YouTube

Key for success:
Planning! Students can re-record while working on their project, but there is no option for editing saved work. Students working on more sophisticated projects should decide beforehand which characters they will use and what will happen. If they are working in groups, having a script, or at least discussing who will say what and when is important. Having a storyboard would be very helpful.

Download printable directions for using Puppet Pals HD.

Additional links:
Introduction to Puppet Pals HD
Practical Lesson Plans Using Puppet Pals HD
Persuasive Writing and Puppet Pals HD

Originally published on Technology at Chaparral.