Friday, April 28, 2006

Hosting MysteryQuestUSA

I have written in a previous blog about how much I love the MysteryQuest videoconference. So when I learned that MysteryQuest USA for 5th graders was taking place while our schools were closed for our spring break I was very disappointed. When I suggested to Janine Lim, Instructional Technology Consultant for Berrien County Intermediate School District where MysteryQuest is coordinated, that maybe I could organize and host a MQUSA she said "great" and I was off yet again on a new videoconferencing adventure. First came the flurry of interested schools. The spots filled quickly and I even had to turn away some very enthusiastic candidates. Then I had to confirm the lucky classrooms of their participation. Next I had to schedule test calls with the bridge. A class dropped out and another space had to be refilled. Another confirmation letter. 5 classes couldn't make the test on the day assigned so I had to reschedule those classes. In short coordinating MysteryQuest had become a quest of its own.

When MysteryQuestUSA finally arrived I realized I had two of the same states participating on the same day (a no-no). I didn't have a countdown clock but rather a digital clock that showed military time. And two of my own schools that had worked so hard to prepare for the videoconference had their network shutdown (I still had two other classes participating). I would be hosting two MysteryQuestUSA programs. They each had 5 participating classrooms. One of the classes in honor of National Poetry Month delivered their clues in poetic form. The class from Paris, Texas performed their clues with incredible background scenery that made us feel we were at a Broadway Show. St. Thomas School in Wisconsin had beautiful posters that were painted on both sides so they flipped them over to reveal their clues. They were the most environmentally friendly presentation.

As for how the classes did with their guesses, almost every group got the right city and state. Are the students getting smarter? Are the clues getting better? Or is "google" making mystery cities and states an endangered species? Whatever the reason for the student's success it still is a challenging and engaging videoconference.

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