Last week I celebrated Dot Day. This was a new event for me. It began with "the Mighty Little Librarian", Tiffany Whitehead, sending a call out on Twitter for middle school classes to Skype with her in honour of Dot Day. My initial response was something like: "Yes, count me in! Oh, and ummm, what's Dot Day exactly?"
Dot Day is inspired by the picture book The Dot by Peter Reynolds. As the website linked at the beginning of this paragraph shows, Dot Day celebrates creativity, courage, and collaboration and began with teacher Terry Shay in 2009.
To celebrate International Dot Day, two of my Grade 7-8 classes had a Mystery Skype call with two of the classes in Tiffany's school. Neither of us had conducted a Mystery Skype call before, so it was pretty courageous of us to try this type of collaboration. Based on questions each group asked the other, we had to guess in what city we lived. Our plans were that if we had extra time during the call after each group had successfully determined the location of the other, we could ask questions about what life was like in that community.
Tiffany wrote about her experience with Dot Day 2013 on her blog and this blog post is my opportunity to share. My students were really curious and excited about this exchange. They even willingly gave up five minutes of their recess to come in early to be set up in front of the web cam for the encounter. My Tuesday group watched the screen carefully and listened attentively to Tiffany and her students as they spoke. I should have recorded the inter-student dialogue, because I was impressed with their thought processes. For this encounter, Tiffany and I agreed to allow open-ended questions. When one of my students instructed us to ask "Do you live in America?", another student noted the Stars & Stripes hanging in the corner of the library and declared that we should have already known the country from this clue. Another student immediately detected a strong common accent when the students were speaking and inferred that the group might live in Texas. Once we learned that Tiffany's school was in a location near Texas, a small group of students hustled away to locate an atlas (and when they had problems finding it in on the shelves, they searched online). Tiffany's group, to our great surprise, guessed our city correctly in very little time. When we asked how they were so quick, they confessed that Toronto is the only city they know in Canada. Since the "mystery" portion of our call was resolved early, we asked each other questions, like their favourite books, student readers choice programs, weather, and school mascots. We challenged Tiffany's group to guess our school name; we offered the clue that our school was named for a famous Canadian. Their first guess? Terry Fox. Their second? Justin Bieber! The call ended a bit abruptly as my computer decided to shut down without warning; however, we had an enjoyable conversation between the classes.