Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Power of Digital Scavenger Hunts

As a kid, I had a love hate relationship with scavenger hunts. I loved the excitement, the adventure, the competition. I hated talking to people I didn't know. When I was a kids (and it WASN'T that long ago!) it was still safe to roam the neighboorhood knocking on doors and asking for paperclips, bananas, etc. But today? Kids rarely go outside and interact with the world. It is school, home, maybe do some homework, then TV and/or video games. You rarely see kids playing street hockey, or cops & robbers in a front yard. Lack of play is affecting the brain development of our kids. Here is just one article (with references) on the affects:

My point? Maybe we, as teachers, can use an assignment to allow kids to use the technology they are so addicted to AND get out and play.

Ok, more back story, last week, I participated in GISHWHES (Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen). Google it. It's put on by Misha Collins of Supernatural fame. It is crazy. It's insane. And I have not had that much fun in a LONG time! It required creativity, problem solving, communication, stepping out of one's comfort zone, and a lot of abnosomeness. (Google it!) The whole purpose? To try and get people to STOP worrying about what others think. To dance in the rain. To try something new. To challenge yourself. To talk to people you have never meet. To send e-mails to CEOs and congressman requesting monkey hat pictures and Beyonce videos. We had one girl on our team who is terribly shy. She took on one of the tasks, had panic attacks over the requirement to talk to people she did not know. But she did it. Her reflection after the event was that she learned things about herself she never knew. She feels stronger and more confident.

I believe education has become too "safe". We don't challenge students to take risks anymore. Everyone gets a trophy, there is no failure. And if you ask a student to do something they don't like, expect a call from a parent. The results? We have an entire generation that think getting a job is "too hard".

So, let's step out of that safety net just a little and challenge the kids in a fun way. Digital scavenger hunts allow students to record their finds/creations/completing of a task, and submit it digitally. They don't have to require students to talk to strangers. But they can challenge them to talk to congressman, potential future employers, people who have lived history.

For example, a history class could require students to send an email to their congressman about an issue that concerns them, record a veteran talking about his/her experiences in WWII, visit a local national/state park or landmark and record the visit with video/photos, visit an American history museum, etc.

Science: record examples of (fill in the scientific term) that you see everyday. Visit the local science museum, collect photos of plants/insects/birds you see in your neighborhood.

There are so many potential ways to wake our students up to the world around them while letting them play a game. And don't forget to encourage their creativity. Have them dress up as their favorite historical person or literary character. Re-create a historical event out of the toys you have in your house. Do a simple kitchen science experiment and video the process, all dressed as Einstein. The potential is unlimited.

My point? We have got to wake our students up to the world around them. They can not just explore the world through Google Earth or view nature by watching Shark Week. We need to engage them in life. Reawaken curiosity and a desire to explore. And I believe digital scavenger hunts are one way to accomplish this.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Shameless Self Promotion...

If you are looking for technology related videos, I do have a channel on TeacherTube. Check it out!

And if you are looking for a specific how-to video...let me know...I may add it to my to-do list!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Quick and Easy Technology Integration

With the new school year right around the corner (my students come back Monday!), lesson plans are flying out of printers and teachers are frantically looking for ways to integrate technology. Here are a couple of quick and easy ideas to help you start off your year with technology integration.

QR Codes & Google Forms
Have you ever seen one of these?

They are everywhere. This is a QR code. Very simple, it is a "picture" of a web address that a special app on your phone called a QR reader can read. It will take you directly to a website. In this case, it takes you to a Google Form that I have created.

Google Forms are a great way to gather information, do an anonymous survey, or have people RSCP tp events. These are only a couple of examples of what you can do with a Google Form. In fact, I have evne created a Google Form for our school that allows teachers to submit their lesson plans by answering a few simple questions.

So why not start of the first day of school getting to know your students with a getting to know you survey? Post signs around the room with the QR code (you can also post a link for students who do not have QR readers) to a survey in Google? Or create a scavenger hunt. Students have to find 10 items. Post twice as many posters around the room with QR codes that link to unrelated items. Students can partner up so no one is excluded.

To create a QR code, I use the site .

Poll Everywhere

You create a poll, either multiple choice or open ended, and have students use a cell phone or computer to send in their reponse. Poll updates real time and can be displayed on anything connected to a computer.

Padlet (formerly WallWishers)

This is a virtual bulletin board. You can pose a question and have students share their responses. Great way to check for understanding or encourage participation from students who do not like to speak out in class.

Poll Everywhere & Padlet take very little prep time (10 minutes or less) and are easy to use at any time. The QR codes & Google Forms take a little more prep time (30-60 minutes), but are very effective technology integration tools and can be used over and over. All three can be used to check for understanding, promote classroom discussions, and in general, make the class room more interactive.

There are many more AWESOME tools out there for integration, and I will get around to discussing them eventually. These three are just the quickest and easiest, and most importantly, FREE!

The most important thing to rememer with technolgy integration is that it has to work for YOU and your students. If you hate it, don't use. Technology integration should be fun and exciting, not something you dread more than a staff meetings.