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Create a mobile learning scavenger hunt

By Allison White
July 10, 2014
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Each year the Mobile Learning Network (formerly SIGML) hosts a session that blends tech tools and a walking tour of the host city. This year's tour took the form of a mobile scavenger hunt called PhotoQuest Atlanta! As the designer of this session, I wanted to make sure that, in addition to having fun and connecting with others, participants could implement this type of learning experience in their own schools and ed tech communities. How to plan your own mobile scavenger hunt Give it a try! Here's a nuts and bolts guide to how I created the PhotoQuest Atlanta scavenger hunt. Feel free to modify the steps to create your own. Set your objectives. Like I would for any learning experience, I started by outlining my goals and objectives. By the end of the session, I wanted participants to have the opportunity to:

  • Meet and collaborate with other attendees.
  • Be creative.
  • Experiment with mobile apps to spice up their photos and videos.
  • Brainstorm how they can use mobile scavenger hunts in their own learning environments.
  • Explore downtown Atlanta while learning bits of history and fun facts about this incredible city.

Set a time and place for the hunt and send out invites. We scheduled our hunt during ISTE 2014, on Sunday, June 29, at 8:30 a.m. If you're worried about inviting too many people, keep in mind that we had 150 ISTE attendees show up for our two-hour game-based learning experience! Choose an app. After testing out many apps, I selected Social Scavenger for this event due to its ease of use, connection to social media and built-in opportunities for creativity. (Full disclosure: Social Scavenger kindly sponsored this event.) Create the challenges. Since I had never been to Atlanta before, coming up with the challenges was in itself a challenge! However, with significant research and a lot of creativity, I was able to develop questions and select an app that would lead my learners to the objectives I identified above. After forming teams, our scavenger hunters embarked on a journey to complete 21 challenges that were embedded in the app. Each required teams to answer questions about Atlanta trivia, history or pop culture. Attendees had to do a little online research or chat with local Atlantans to get the answers. Give hunters a way to demonstrate their learning. We asked our participants to post the answers to our questions in one of the following formats: short answer, photo, video, augmented reality photo or QR code. The Social Scavenger app also uses a built-in option for posting directly to Twitter or Facebook. Let participants get their creativity on. Instead of just snapping and posting pictures and video, we encouraged participants to be creative and use other mobile apps to label photos, merge photos, change their backdrops, etc. Their options were unlimited, but we did share a few of our favorite apps to explore as possibilities:
  • Over: Allows users to add text and artwork to photos
  • PicStitch: Allows users to frame photos and put them together in a collage
  • Tellegami: Allows users to create and share a 30-second video using an avatar and a backdrop of their choice
  • Hipstamatic: Allows the user to swap lenses, flashes and film for hundreds of effects
  • FX Photo Studio: Gives users access to a collection of filters, textures, and overlay and editing options
  • SpaceEffect: Offers over 75 effects and textures

In the following examples, participants edited photos to answer the questions. This is a great way to get learners of all ages to combine research, thinking and creativity.

Tallest HotelGet a group photo at the top of the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere. (Note: They now charge $8 to go up to the viewing area unless you are buying a drink or food). Don't feel pressured to go to the top. Instead get creative with the backdrop for this group photo creative challenge!

Continental DivideIf you dropped a bucket of water here, it would either end up in the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. Try to take a picture here! You might not be able to find a spot to view this feature of Atlanta, but you certainly can get creative and use an app to create a picture of it. Don't forget to include your teammates in the picture!

I didn't expect participants to actually go to the top of the hotel or to travel to a place near Atlanta that shows the Continental Divide, but these teams met the challenge and provided answers that showed off their creativity and problem-solving abilities!

Check out the entire PhotoQuest Atlanta experience in this video:

Use mobile scavenger hunts in your school

While the PhotoQuest event was a great way to meet others and inspire participants to think on their feet, it also allowed for collaboration and brainstorming ways to use this learning activity in their ed tech circles and classrooms. The options are really endless, but here are a few ideas to get your wheels turning — especially with the start of the 2014-15 school year just around the corner!

Host scavenger hunts for open house and orientation events. Have your students create the challenges for their parents to complete at open house. This is a great way for parents to connect with other families in the school as well. Help your new students get to know your school and classroom. Design a hunt for students to complete as a beginning-of-the-year assignment to help them get acquainted with your building and the faculty.

Spice up your professional learning. I am always working on improving my methods for delivering engaging PD, and I look forward to implementing this option with my staff. Here are a couple of ideas I've come up with so far:

Design a hunt based on your staff handbook or code of conduct. Teachers will be much more likely to know the answers after engaging with the content instead of just "reading it." (Sorry, principals — we all know why "reading it" is in quotes!)

Design a hunt to introduce new staff to the building and their coworkers. This would be a great team-building activity and an icebreaker all in one.

Use a scavenger hunt on a field trip. Design a hunt that highlights the main points you want your students to grasp. Have students explain the backgrounds of artists by creating short, role-playing videos in an art museum. Or students can create an avatar to explain different constellations in a planetarium. Expand their horizons further by challenging them to take virtual field trips using Google maps in connection with a hunt.

Turn your students loose to create scavenger hunts of their own. They will love the opportunity to create challenges for others — and the options are really endless!

As mobile learning continues to reinvent the way we think and learn, let's commit to providing authentic opportunities to our students, teachers and all of those in our spheres of influence.

Allison White is an instructional technology facilitator and National Board Certified Teacher with a master's degree in educational technology. Visit her blog and connect with her on Twitter via @allisonGwhite.