I could hardly believe my eyes when I received a request from a teacher, named Ben, in the USA to play Mystery Skype with his class as our time zones rarely match. The only way we can usually connect in real time with the US students.
So, I double checked that Ben had his time zone set correctly in his profile in Skype in the Classroom. He assured me that it was indeed 3:00pm Thursday was for him when it was 9am the next day (Friday) for me. And it was! This is what our connection looked like:-
- Ben and I quickly tested our connections before our classes came in, as this was his classes’ first mystery Skype call.
- Once connected, we tossed a coin to work out who would ask the first question. They said ‘heads’ and the coin fell to ‘tails’. We asked the first question “Are you north of the equator?”
- By a process of taking it in turns to ask each other a question that required a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, one of my girls eventually asked if they were from the USA.
They said ‘yes’ but immediately one of the boys said “No, they are not. They are from India”. The girls who had asked the questions were darker skinned and did not look typically like the US people that we see on our television of computer screens. The class was from Arizona, near the Mexican border so the girls were Mexican in appearance.
The other thing that threw my students was that many of them did not speak English as their first language. Spanish was actually their first language. Again this was not what my students expected of US students. They thought that they would all speak English! Another lady also appeared on the screen towards the end, wearing a head scarf – something that my students were not expecting either. Many of us have clear ideas where we think people are from but videoconferencing tools like Skype break down the “stereotype” images that we have. We see people. We hear people. No longer do we read about them in our textbooks! The global stereotypes become challenged! Please remember that students in our rural school tend to be isolated culturally and geographically although we are getting some Asian dents from visa workers on the large corporate farms now.
Ben’s class were well organised and had signs ready for “just a moment” whilst they worked out answers to questions or determined questions to ask. A great idea of theirs was showing a picture book with a page full of their native animals. This was an interesting way of sharing a collection of native animals with another class.
Lessons learnt: The west coast of USA may actually be reachable and connectable ‘live’, whilst we are in daylight savings time.