Category Archives: technology Integration

Mystery Call – Part 1

Today Ms. Mergener’s 4th grade class learned about the mystery call they will be having with another 4th grade class somewhere in the United States.  We’ll use a Google Hangouts video call to connect with them.

What’s a Mystery Call?

Mystery calls provide students an engaging way to use their communication, research, and geography skills in a game format to guess the location of the other class.  Remember 20 Questions? Guess Who?  This is the basic premise of a mystery call.  Our classes will take turns asking Yes/No questions and eliminating states as possibilities until they are able to uncover the correct state of the other classroom.


Students prepared by brainstorming a starter list of questions that  they hope will help eliminate large numbers of states quickly.  From there, they will choose from other questions on their list or think of new questions on the fly, with the help of the research team, depending on the states that remain in play.

Here are a few questions they came up with:

  • Do you live east of the Mississippi River?
  • Are there mountains in your state?
  • Do you border the Mississippi River?
  • Are you on an ocean coast?
  • Do you live along a US border?
  • Does one or more of the Great Lakes border your state?
  • Are you in the Eastern time zone?
  • Are you in the desert?


We also assigned roles to each student to help the game run more smoothly.  On this first call, we’ll use these roles, but this may change as we reflect on how well it works:

  • Greeter/reporters – Welcome the other class, observe the game and take notes about what is going well or could be improved, thank the other class at the end
  • Questioners – Ask the questions
  • Question Recorders – Keep a record of the questions asked by the other class for our future reference
  • Answerers – Answer the questions posed by the other class
  • Answer Keepers – Record the answers to the questions we ask
  • Runners – Relay answers among the different teams
  • Researchers – Use online tools to help narrow down states based on answers given and research as needed to provide accurate answers to the other team’s questions
  • Eliminators – Eliminate states from the map as questions are answered and use physical maps and atlases for reference to do so.
  • Photographers – Take photos during the call.
  • Videographers – Record the call for later reflection.

Other Considerations

Students were quick to point out that we should take down the large Wisconsin flag that would immediately give away our location!  They also made sure everyone knew not to wear Packers, Badgers, Bucks, or Brewers gear the day of the call. Some of them even thought they should all try to wear Bears clothing to throw the other class off the track.  Sneaky thinkers!


After the call, we’ll reflect on how well the class worked as a team, what roles could be added, deleted, or changed, and which questions yielded the best results.  Then we’ll re-tool and try to be even better the next time around!



Technology Integration – A Huge Topic!

What is technology integration?

Teaching with a SmartBoard? Students using iPads? Skype? Chromebooks?

The answer is yes and no.

Those are all tools to provide the best learning opportunities for our students, but it is HOW we use them that matters.

Technology standards used to focus on the tools themselves.  Now the focus is on skills and knowledge students need to thrive in a digital society.  The International society for Technology in Education (ISTE) provides a well-recognized set of standards for “what students should know and be able to do to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly digital world” (ISTE NETS for Students)

The six broad categories:

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts

The emphasis here is on cognitive skills requiring students to plan, create, and innovate. When integration is done right, the technology itself falls away.  It is what you are able to do with it that is in the spotlight.

Students can now explore the Taj Mahal using google Street View. They can learn about other cities, countries, and cultures through a Mystery Skype with another classroom.  They can write for an authentic audience through an online newspaper or personal blog.  They can quickly and easily research the answers to their own questions.

This is a big task, but it’s an exciting one!  We are all at different levels of expertise and comfort with technology, and that’s ok.  Let’s try something new together.

So this year, I challenge you to ask yourself what small step you can take to give your students an experience that was never possible before.  Then let me help you make it happen.