Introduction

      What would Lewis and Clark have done differently if they were able to access unlimited information on weather patterns and geology of North America? How would Gregor Mendel have changed his famous genetic experiments on peas if he could instantly access the results of every scientific study ever published? How would Laura Ingalls Wilder describe her childhood if her family could have used the Internet to order their supplies needed to build their "Little House on the Prairie?" Perhaps these questions cannot ever be answered. Or can they? Welcome to Learning with iAdventures! 

Why iAdventures?
       
Internet access has become a standard in schools in the last few years. At the same time, the volume and quality of online resources has exploded, allowing access to up-to-the-minute data and vast collections of information and primary documents. Clearly, this ocean of information is of significant educational value, but it is not always clear how these resources can be smoothly integrated into classroom learning activities. The iAdventure concept was developed as an activity structure, an easy way for teachers to create high quality Internet-infused lessons. Students must be given opportunities to explore how computers and Internet access can be used to solve problems and accomplish tasks. That is what an iAdventure (Internet Adventure) is designed to do.

What is an iAdventure?
       
An iAdventure is a problem solving activity in which students determine the direction and outcome of a content-rich storyline, using resources available on the Internet, particularly resources providing real-world data and primary documents. The activity is designed to help students discover how the characters could use access to unlimited data and information (the Internet) to solve problems and make choices.

       As students work their way through the story, they are faced with a series of dilemmas, in which choices must be made. At these points, the teacher has provided links to Internet sites with real-world data, "primary" documents, and other valuable web resources. Students visit these sites, collect data, read various documents, view video and images, and interact with the activities. After analyzing the information, they make an informed decision about the next course of action for their character. The outcome of the iAdventure is open-ended, often a complex product created by the students themselves. Every student product should be different, based upon the knowledge and interests of the students, and upon the choices they have made during the iAdventure.

Click here to see an HTML version of a slide show explaining the details of an iAdventure
The slide show will open in a separate window. Just close the window to return to this page.

Below is a flow chart of the events that occur during an iAdventure:

The following is a brief example of a possiblen iAdventure, to illustrate the structure and innovative nature of this type of activity. This should give you a feel for a complete project:


iAdventure Example 

       A science teacher has been trying to find a way to bring to life for her students the true nature of scientific discovery, by reading stories about historical scientists. She decides to construct an iAdventure about the voyages of Charles Darwin to the Galapagos Islands, as part of a unit on natural selection. Her goal is to create an activity which is enjoyable, teaches students important science concepts, and illustrates to them how the availability of information online can be used to solve real problems. After creating her iAdventure, she schedules three days of class in the computer lab (where there are at least enough computers for her students to work in pairs).

       Her students begin by connecting to her iAdventure web site, then the student who has the role of Story Reader (this student operates the computer as they work through the story) guides the pair through the opening storyline. They follow Darwin through a portion of his early life leading up to his 5-year voyage aboard the Beagle. Eventually they reach the Galapagos Islands, where they are faced with the same baffling biological puzzles that Darwin was faced with. Darwin, however, did not have global access to unlimited information, as they do. Their first dilemma involves trying to decide if the unusual island animals originated on the mainland or on the islands. Before making this decision (which will determine their future course of progress) they visit web sites that provide actual data on ocean and air currents in the area and information on the various animals that live on the mainland, including recent research on the genetic connections between the mainland and island animals. Links to these web sites are provided by the teacher on the iAdventure pages. Based on data collected by the student with the role of Problem Solver (this students operates the computer as they gather information from the web sites), they make a choice, which takes them in a specific direction of the story-line.

       The next dilemma the students are faced with involves the actual crew of the Beagle. The ship's captain is faced with low moral and possible desertion. A choice must be made as to whether to navigate to the mainland to give the crew some much-needed time off or to continue. The students visit web sites that have actual journal entries written by Darwin and some of the other men on the ship (primary documents). They make a decision as to whether there actually was such a danger, based on these journal entries. Their decision takes them in a specific story-line direction.

       When students reach the third dilemma, which must be solved by additional analysis of primary documents and data, they then make their final decision and create their own conclusion to the story-line. This conclusion, and the research and decisions that led to it, will be shared with the class in an iAdventure seminar.

History of the iAdventure Concept
       The basic iAdventure concept was developed by the Learning with iAdventures Project Coordinator, Stan Smith, with input from a committee of teachers, to provide students an opportunity to increase their knowledge in the core content areas while working together and using technology to creatively solve problems. After working with various Internet-infused activity structures with students, particularly WebQuests, we summarized the types of learning modes and activities that these other activity structures do not allow. In other words, we looked at the gaps that exist in other Internet activity structures. Based on these gaps, we developed an innovative learning activity structure, the iAdventure.

NOTE: This is in no way intended to criticize activities such as WebQuests and Treasure Hunts, which are very valuable strategies for teaching and learning (see our own WebQuest Academy site). Instead, my goal was to create an activity structure which fills several "gaps," particularly the following:

First, some Internet-infused activities require that students work in groups of 3-5. We have found that this results in many students who are idle, feeling left out.

Second, many other activities often are not as open-ended as they could be. True student-centered inquiry activities are very open-ended, requiring students to use primary information sources and raw data to draw their own conclusions and make predictions (which is exactly what iAdventures are designed to do). Often, however, other Internet activities resemble a set of questions with links to sites that provide the answers (like questions at the end of a text chapter).

Third, those activities often do not provide students with an understanding of how global access to information (the Internet) can be used by people in real-life problem-solving situations.

These "gaps" have prompted me to develop the iAdventure, a web-infused learning activity structure which teachers can use in situations where they feel these "gaps" are important.

       The iAdventure activity structure gives students an idea of how global access to unlimited information and data can be used (or could have been used by historical characters, if they had had access to it) to help solve important real-life problems.

       You can find additional details, documents, and web links related to creating and using iAdventures HERE.

       The iAdventure activity structure is by no means the only useful Internet activity structure, but is intended to meet some specific instructional needs that others do not. If you are interested in other Intenet activitiy structures, take at look at WebQuests (Bernie Dodge's official WebQuest Page, or our own WebQuest Academy site). You might also be interested in Treasure Hunts and Subject Samplers, two of the activity structures featured at sites such as Filamentality. And there are few additional activity structures worth investigating.

       The iAdventure concept, as described here, is still in the development process. I welcome all ideas and feedback in order to make this site, and the iAdventure concept, as useful as possible. Please contact me, Stan Smith, at ssmith@warrensburgr6.org

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