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Monday, February 18, 2013

Using Photo Scavenger Hunts in the Classroom

As a Technology Resource Specialist, it is my job to provide the faculty at my school with new, relevant options for technology integration in their own classrooms. Recently, what I have been most excited about sharing with my colleagues is a relatively simple and often overlooked idea: using student smartphones for photo scavenger hunts.

I think that there is a preconception about scavenger hunts being juvenile and lacking the capacity for academic rigor. I myself truly believe that when used well, photo scavenger hunts can be engaging ways to get students out of their seats while providing opportunities for higher-order thinking. After all, if designed correctly, a photo scavenger hunt requires students to not only be familiar with the concepts, but be able to find examples of the concepts in real life.

Plus, this is not an activity that it is only applicable to fine arts classrooms. To the contrary, teachers at my school have been able to use scavenger hunts in all types of classrooms - all it takes is a little creativity in structuring the task list! Check out some examples of task lists for photo scavenger hunts below, broken down by subject area:

Art:

History:
Science:

English:
  • Find pictures that describe vocabulary words 
  • Find pictures that communicate a major theme (love, hubris, etc.) 
  • Find examples of literary terms (hyperbole, etc.)
Math:
  • Find pictures of different types of angles
  •  Find geometrical shapes 
  • Find perpendicular and parallel lines

As you can see, there are ways to use scavenger hunts in any subject or grade level. The key to making them successful, however, is to have a clear objective for the assignment. For example, with the math example of finding geometrical shapes, the objective is to assess whether students can recognize and name specific shapes. Thus, when the instructor presents it to the class, he or she can emphasize that students need to not only find the different shapes, but be able to name which shape it is when they present it to the class. In this way, hunts can be customized for each lesson and classroom.

As I have explained to my colleagues, these scavenger hunts are relatively easy to set up. Just provide students with a list of required items, set clear expectations, group them into teams, and release them into the school. As with any hands-on activity, I have seen that students are excited to get out of their chairs during class and are especially excited to be able to use their phones. If your students do not have smartphones or phones with a camera feature, pair them up with someone who does, as you only need one camera per team. Plus, check to see if your school has cameras available for your students to use.

Of course, as with any other scenario, students should be monitored as they roam the school, and be given a time limit for completing their tasks. At the end, it is crucial that they are provided with time to upload photos from their phone to the teacher, so that the instructor is available to help with any technical questions. Be sure to wrap-up the activity with an opportunity for discussion, and allow students to share their best captures with the other teams.

About the Guest Blogger
Aditi Rao is a Technology Resource Specialist and Graphic Design instructor in Houston, Texas. For more ideas and resources on educational technology you can check out her blog, TeachBytes, and follow her on Twitter @teachbytes.

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