Monday, 17 August 2015

5 ways to make the most out of Digital Mysteries

Since Digital Mysteries for iPad launched in November 2014, we’ve been developing more and more apps and now have 37 live on the App Store! We are regularly uploading more so keep an eye out.

Much to our excitement, downloads have come from far and wide – the UK of course, where we are based, but also USA, Australia, Canada, China and far too many countries to list!

After speaking to many teachers who use the mysteries, there can be differences in how and why they are used. Some teachers prefer to download the app then have a quick run through and then use it with their class. Others prefer to really explore everything the app has to offer, try different things and customise it, then, and only then, do they use it with the students.

So to make the most of what our Digital Mysteries apps have to offer, we’ve created this ‘Top 5’ list of things you might not know are available:
  1. Dedicated collaboration: Although our descriptions discuss how the apps are designed for working in pairs/small groups, as well as many of our tweets and emails, this is not always the way people use them. This is probably because when a teacher downloads an app, they are on their own and each individual app has a specific focus, e.g. Shakespeare, so they focus on the content, ease of use, the process and what students could possibly learn. While working individually on Digital Mysteries is absolutely fine, and can bring lots of benefits, it brings a multitude of extra benefits when worked on in pairs (or a three). It is excellent for developing collaboration skills, discussion, communication and higher level thinking. The apps are made so that more than one touch is allowed at a time, so students work together on ONE iPad – an added bonus being that you actually only need half the amount of iPads (see ‘Doubling the availability of your iPads’).

    How to: When you’ve tapped ‘Begin New Mystery Session’, toggle the number of users there is using the arrows. Names are entered and they have separate buttons to press in-session. They must tap on their own name to agree certain things throughout the session, e.g. that they’ve read an introduction, agree with the name choice for a group or that they’ve decided on their answer.

  2. Reports: When students have finished a session and wrote their answer in, a PDF report is automatically generated. Upon completion, you aren’t automatically taken to the PDF, as it may not be the right time to look at it, or it may be something the teacher would print/share rather than the students.

    How to: To view a session report, just go to View Reports in the main menu and tap on the one you want to see. From there, you can print, email or share.

  3. Differentiation: Most of our apps have three difficulty levels to them. It varies from app to app what difference this makes, but it usually means the higher the difficulty level, the more slips of information are provided to students (which may have abstract or more advanced content on them). There are also sometimes differences in the hints given to students when they have difficulty moving on from the Grouping Stage or Sequencing Stage.

    How to: To change your difficulty level, go to Settings from the main menu and toggle between levels in the top right hand corner.

  4. Number of stages: If you didn’t know already, most Digital Mysteries apps have three stages in ‘solving’ them. The default is usually 1. Reading, 2. Grouping and 3. Sequencing (followed by entering an answer and playback). However, if you would rather students have access to all of the tools from the beginning and have the process unsegmented (before answer and playback), you can. If you like the idea of students simply reading all the slips, then moving to the stage where they create and group them all, choose Two Stage.

    How to: To set a different amount of stages, just go to Settings, and toggle between the amount of stages in the top left corner. (One Stage is all tools at once, with no segmentation of reading, grouping then sequencing. Two Stage is reading then grouping).

  5. Session playback: Schools we’ve spoken to about Digital Mysteries tend to love this feature. Students also find it engaging too; it is brilliant to watch as they show other groups what they’ve been doing. Session playback, also known as the Reflection Stage, occurs automatically after students write in their answer. This means that most people know about it. You could also:
  • Bookmark: Sit with each group and discuss some key moments with students. Within the actual session, students can ‘bookmark’ certain points in time - these are then pinpointed on the playback timeline so you/they can easily go back to them.
  • Improve: Ask students to think about what they would do differently as they reflect; it’s not just like a video playback, so they/you can pause it and play around with what’s on the screen!
  • Quick glance: Have a look at our guide, ‘Interpreting What’s on the Screen’ – it’s a rundown of what the different icons mean at a glance.
  • Go back to it next week: While the Reflection Stage automatically occurs immediately after students enter an answer, you can also go to ‘Session Playback’ from the main menu at any time afterwards, and just tap on the one you want to view. This is great to recap and see how much students remembered.
  • Reflect as a class: Try connecting one of the iPads to a projector and reflecting on the session as a class (Using the Session Playback)

Thanks very much for reading this post on Digital Mysteries – there are many ways to use it (both, as a teacher and a student). We could have added various other things but this is a short summary of those which you may have missed. We would love to know how you use Digital Mysteries or if you have any tips for other users. Comment here or email

There is also a video here which runs through a typical session, and you can visit our resources page and FAQ for more things not mentioned here, or contact us if you have a question.

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