By Amy Erickson
In the past, I’ve used scavenger hunts at the beginning of a class to help students locate helpful, course-related information. Students would get the following list of items to identify and keep for future reference:
- My email address
- My office hours
- My late policy
- Due dates for initial discussion forum posts and weekly assignments
- Policy on academic dishonesty and consequences for academic dishonesty
- My Twitter handle
- My dog’s name
Once students completed this assignment, I knew they had taken the time to find out how and when they could contact me; what the expectations were surrounding academic deadlines and academic integrity; and that they had taken the time to read my introduction. Students liked the idea of having all of this information in one place and I felt that calling it a “scavenger hunt” made it seem more fun that calling it “Assignment #1.”
Scavenger hunts can be a great way to introduce students to the online library. Most students have had some type of introductory library tutorial, but reinforcing the lessons learned therein provides extra insurance that students won’t try to Google their way through every research assignment. In my library scavenger hunt, I asked students to list the number of results when using various key words, and to locate a specific, scholarly article in a course-related database and then create a folder to save that article. I also assigned students the task of creating a proper reference for an article using the citation assistance provided in the library. Finally, students were asked to find and list an article they would be interested in reading for personal edification.
Even though I have used scavenger hunts in the classroom, I admit my use of them was rather limited. Angela Heath’s (2016) article in the November Online Classroom newsletter showed me that not only could scavenger hunts be used to teach students how and where to find information, but they could also be used to encourage what she calls “deeper learning” (para. 4).
Bloom’s Taxonomy and Scavenger Hunts
The aforementioned library exercise is a good example of a scavenger hunt that shows students how and where to find relevant, scholarly information. However, it does not force students to engage in more than one level of Bloom’s taxonomy, nor does it afford them the opportunity to use multiple resources to understand information on their topic. Heath (2016) stated “by forcing students to search a variety of types of media, the scavenger hunt better teaches the twenty-first-century skill of information gathering from different sources, which is what students will need to do in the real world” (para. 1). With that and Bloom’s taxonomy in mind, Heath (2016) gives the following example of a scavenger hunt using various sources to help students understand, analyze, comprehend, and create material on the topic of green computing:
Each of the groups is given a scavenger hunt list that instructs them to find types of information in order to construct a wiki, website, or slideshow on their subtopic. A typical list might require students to find (1) a website, (2) image or infographic, (3) video or podcast, (4) authoritative citations, and (5) a company or person to interview. After the hunt, each group uses their information to create a wiki, webpage, paper, or online discussion thread on their subtopic. (para. 3)
I loved this. After reading Heath’s example, I immediately started to think about ways I could do something similar in my own courses. Perhaps literature students could collaborate and find interviews, critical essays, biographical information, Twitter feeds, and information about the historical context of a piece of literature and present their material in the form of a collage, an iMovie, a PowerPoint presentation, or a Wordle. I imagine the wheels are turning for you as you consider ways to use scavenger hunts to dive into your course material, too!
Reveries of the Solitary Scavenger
The scavenger hunts I’ve used in the past have been solitary in nature. Students would work on their own list of items without feedback or collaboration with their peers. For the examples I’ve used in terms of introducing students to the class or library, I think that is okay. However, Heath’s suggestion of creating groups for assignment-related scavenger hunts sounds like a wonderful idea. Allowing students to collaborate in the comprehension, analysis, and creation of material seems like it would be a great way to engage students and make them feel connected to their peers and the course material. If you have experience with group scavenger hunts in your classroom, please let us know what has worked for you.
Heath, A. (2016, November). Promoting deeper learning with online scavenger hunting. Online Classroom. Retrieved November 2, 2016, from http://www.magnapubs.com/newsletter/online-classroom/153/Promoting-Deeper-Learning-with-Online-Scavenger-Hunting-14262-1.html