Hendrickson and Doering (2013) deviated from the traditional expedition style of adventure learning (AL) by targeting a specific region of the country. In this case the state of Minnesota was used to create a local AL environment for students to participate. The nine core principles of AL were used, based on dowering and miller’s (2009) framework, and are as follows:

  1. A defined issue and place
  2. Authentic narratives
  3. Element of Adventure
  4. Curriculum grounded in inquiry
  5. Collaboration and interaction between learners, experts, teachers, and content
  6. Synched learning opportunities between AL content and the curriculum
  7. An online venue to deliver the content
  8. Multiple media that enhanced the curriculum
  9. Scaffolding for teachers and learners

The researchers deduced that this framework wold be conducive to community building. There were two research questions that the study wanted to answer:

  1. “In what way did the AL learning environment, content, and collaboration space actively engage students in the learning process and why?”
  2. “In what way did the AL learning environment, content, and collaboration space spur community building and why?”

Three schools participated in the study. A total of 110 grade 4, 13 grade 5, and 3 classroom teachers were involved. 53% of the participants were girls and 47% were boys. The average time spent on the AL project was between 30-45min per week with an range of participation between classes of 5-9 weeks. 3 classes in the study were designated as gifted. The majority of students had access to the internet at home (97% of the 117 students surveyed prior to the study) and no prior use of any of the study websites had been used by participating students.

Researchers used both initial design and implementation of the design based research  method, while choosing to omit the study, redesign and reimplementation components of this method. Data was collected in the form of 2 student surveys, 6 surveys of teachers, 17 discrete observation times and 6 student focus groups.

Results were grouped into either cognitive (task persistence and focus) or emotional (attitude towards people and tasks) categories.

Cognitive

The ability to share, interact and create something relevant to their lives as well as the variety of components online (photos, video) contributed to both task persistence and focus. Students in focus groups also expressed that the ability to choose tasks rather than have teacher dictated work improved focus. Researchers noted that the use of new technology (novelty factor) may have been a contributing factor for the initial student focus levels.

Emotional

84% of the post-study respondents expressed an interest in learning more about the content while 77% of the respondents said that they either learned more or had more fun with this project than others they had completed in school. 66% of the respondents said they learned more quickly with this format. Focus groups requested learning games from their teachers as a way of increasing excitement in other areas of school.

Hendrickson, J., & Doering, A. (2013) Adventure learning and learner engagement: frameworks for designers and educators. Journal of interactive learning research. 24(4), 397-424

Reflections and Thoughts

The majority of AL has used extreme excursions, such as the Go North! program (http://www.polarhusky.com), in which students interact with experts who are based in Alaska. There is synchronous and asynchronous components to the learning environment. In this current study, an online environment was built around people and place of the state of Minnesota. Students from this state were able to learn in both an online environment and in a classroom based situation the same way traditional AL would be. I see a number of benefits to the modified system the current researchers employed.

  1. Students interact with environments that are local. Although an excursion to an extreme environment may appeal to some initially, the connection to place will be longer lasting if that environment is a students local space.
  2. In the current study students are able to add content to the online space related to the area that they live. This allows participants to become experts of their local space. The ownership of the students learning and the engagement in the process will increase.
  3. Interaction: students are going to be able to interact with others and develop pride in both the place they live and the learning and teaching they are performing. Teacher student interactions should become bi-directional as students are able to choose their learning paths.

As a result of reading this study, I think it would be interesting to initiate a similar program in BC. As both a culturally and geographically diverse province it would be exciting to allow students in various parts of the province to interact and teach others about the spaces they live.

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