The Teacher’s Quick Guide To Digital Scavenger Hunts

digital scavenger hunt

If you’ve got a smartphone or a tablet in your classroom, you’re ready for the adventure to begin! By adventure I mean, of course, the world of active learning through digital scavenger hunts. In this hunt, students are tasked with finding a particular physical object, person, or place and have to use technology to track it down. Note: an ‘online scavenger hunt’ usually implies that you’re hunting around online and not physically with classmates. For the purpose of this article, I’m focusing on the physical version I’ve dubbed ‘digital scavenger hunts’.

The Simple Goal

So now that you’re all ready to start your very first scavenger hunt, let’s figure out what the goals are. In my opinion, a high quality hunt should have the goal of inspiring learning, creative thinking, reasoning, and qualitative assessment. By all this I simply mean that a good hunt will get students engaged. Simple as that.

Finding The Technology

iphone outsideLike the movie National Treasure, students will need a lot of ingenuity and tools to help them uncover the mysteries you’ve laid out before them. You may not have to travel to Mount Rushmore or the White House to discover hidden secrets … but you can still make the digital scavenger hunt just as exciting (and perhaps a bit safer than the series of absurd stunts done by Nic Cage and his crew.)

In an effort to get your scavenger hunt jump-started, here are a few useful tech tools that might be of use. They range from devices to apps to other blog posts on the subject. I recommend trying out as many as you want and then figure out which works best for your class. Important note on that: find out which works best for your class … not you. Your class needs to have all the buy-in to any decision you make so be sure to keep them front and center when considering tech.

SCVNGR – A useful free app that lets you create your very own digital scavenger hunts, start to finish. You can assign points, automatically give points to students who take photos of particular objects, etc. The main problem is that it’s location-based which means you get points based on what you’re near. In this case, a digital scavenger hunt that only takes place in one room (your classroom) is tough.

The Apple iPhone (newer models) or Android smartphone (newer models) – Whether you love or hate Apple or Android doesn’t matter. Just get a newer device that has a camera, GPS, a built-in web browser, and the ability to last for more than a couple hours. Students are going to be using these smartphones a ton during the course of a digital scavenger hunt so it’ll need all of those features at minimum. For example, students could be having a Skype chat on a smartphone … then have to look up something on Google Maps … then use Wolfram Alpha to compute something … then ask Siri a question (Apple only obviously) … then take a photo or video … then upload it to YouTube … then upload it to Instagram or Edmodo. It just keeps going and going.

Lesson Plans – There are some fabulous lesson plans by Scholastic that feature a few ideas for using SCVNGR (see above) as a digital scavenger hunt. I highly recommend you check out this link to learn more.

Finding An Objective

ipads in classroomsThe next thing you’ll want to figure out (aside from the goal of the hunt – see above) is what students should be hunting for. For example, you could have them try and track down some ‘dinosaur footprints’ that you’ve carefully created outside — but that’s probably only useful during recess. So let’s stick to creating objectives that are contained within the classroom. An example of this might be finding a companion classroom in another country that is also tasked with finding your classroom. In other words, the goal of the digital scavenger hunt could be to have a Skype chat with another classroom around the world. (That classroom would know it’ll be called at some point and can be prepped by its teacher).

That’s just a simple and random idea. Teachers are some of the most creative people in the world so I trust you can come up with objectives that’ll be tailored to your particular class. If you need more tips, feel free to message @edudemic on Twitter and we’ll chat! Digitally, of course. :-)

A Quick Note

Digital scavenger hunts should be carefully prepared so don’t rush into them. They’re fun and, if done properly, will get students excited to do another one. If instead students spend the entire time asking you, the teacher, questions … then it’s not ideal. Instead, make sure the hunt is planned out so that the students can only ask questions of each other. That’s likely the best way to keep the active learning process in high gear.

If you’ve done a digital scavenger hunt, share it with the Edudemic audience! Lotsa people read the comments here so just leave a note about what you’ve done and we might even feature it as a blog post here or update this post. Thanks!

1 Comment

  1. Jeanette Parham

    February 10, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Back in 2008 my colleagues and I designed a 6-8 week scavenger hunt activity based upon “National Treasure”. Student groups were allowed to go beyond the classroom and search throughout the school at designated times. You can read more about it here http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/teacher_feature/teacher_feature170.shtml and see the tool we used to structure the activities here http://newarksnationaltreasure.newark.site.eboard.com
    Needless to say it was an extremely rewarding activity for all participants. I have since retired and my fellow colleagues are in different positions but I am still very much a teacher and learner but this time in the senior, retiree, baby boomer arena. Mmmmmmmm wonder what designing a scavenger hunt for baby boomers would be like. Think I’ll give it some thought.