Schools are constantly looking for ways to use technology in and outside of the classroom to prepare children for the high-tech world that awaits them, but veteran fifth grade teacher Mary Horton was astounded by the effectiveness of technology on a recent field trip.
Horton has taken students to Atlanta's Cyclorama for around 20 years and for years she had the children participate in an educational scavenger hunt offered by Cyclorama officials. However, she gave up on the hunt five years ago because her students had become less motivated to finish the activity and more motivated to goof off and run wild.
This year Horton took a different approach with surprisingly effective results. She worked with Heard Mixon Elementary Schools' technology expert, Kim Aldridge, and her fellow fifth grade teachers to develop a digital scavenger hunt using the school's iPods.
"It was absolutely amazing. We didn't have kids running around; they took their time. Our jaws dropped," Horton said. "All of us teachers were walking around and the students always yak and talk, but this was a different kind of learning talk."
The teachers trained the students on how to take pictures with the iPods, and then tweaked the traditional scavenger hunt, which previously only required students to write answers to questions. Now the students had to not only answer questions through a test application on their iPod, such as how many Civil War soldiers' hats are located in the museum, but also had to take pictures of the hats, as well as many of the other artifacts and kiosks.
The students were paired into teams of two and rotated between taking pictures and writing down answers. They also had to incorporate themselves into at least one photo, providing a fun element.
On the way back home, the students uploaded the photos to a mobile digital application called Splice, which allows users to create movies and audio slideshows. The students made a photo slideshow with the answers displayed and then added music.
"It was very neat," Horton said. "On the bus ride home you could hear a pin drop. Usually on the way home, they're talking like crazy. Some got their movie before we got back to school."
Using the school system's eLearn system students can upload the assignments to the web and then review and evaluate each other's assignments.
"They've really grown and thoroughly enjoyed it," Horton said.
Horton said her fellow teachers, Sandi Newsham, Nicole Roberts and Misti Smith, helped her work out the logistics so students wouldn't bunch up at the same stations.
Given the success of the trip, Aldridge, the school's tech expert, will share the program with technology trainers at the other schools in the system to see if they can find applications at other schools.
"It could be used on any kind of field trip if you can find a way to do it. It really engaged the students and was an awe inspiring thing to watch," Horton said. "We didn't have to say go to this thing and then go that one. We had to direct a little bit, but for the most part students were actively looking for the answers. It was really neat; I know I'll do it every year from this point on."