Each year, the Jackson County Intermediate School District offers first, second, and third-year teachers professional development through the New Teacher Academy. The group meets monthly and includes discussion and activities tailored to the unique needs of these growing professionals. This year, our EdTech team has had the pleasure of visiting the Academy to present various technology tools and strategies during their 2-hour after-school meetings. We explored Makerspaces, Virtual Reality, Social Media, BreakoutEDU, and much more. It has been an encouraging and rewarding experience for our team, one that we look forward to each month.
In addition to hosting 2-hour sessions after school, the New Teacher Academy invites participants to an all-day event in the spring. This year, we wanted to up the ante by exposing our new teachers to a new technology tool while simultaneously giving them the opportunity to explore the city in which they live and work.
After learning about the Goose Chase scavenger hunt platform and using it with wild success in a variety of classroom and professional development settings, we knew we had our tool. We were on to something special when we stumbled across the book Michigan’s Crossroads to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in Jackson County written by Linda Hass. In this book, we were able to connect buildings, parks, and businesses in our community to the city’s rich history through a variety of fun, yet challenging missions for our new teachers to complete.
About the Event
After introducing the event and communicating the rules, we watched the magic unfold as new teachers explored highlights of downtown Jackson. One mission asked teams to find the location of a time capsule to be opened in the year 3000. Another required teams to find a wall of painted murals and to take a picture recreating one of the scenes.
The missions also connected our teams to Jackson’s rich history as a hub of the Underground Railroad. Through the GPS feature on the Goose Chase app, teams were able to check-in to a city church that was a stop on the Underground Railroad and to a city park known as the birthplace of the Republican Party.
In addition to exploring our city and its history, the game asked our participants to complete some missions by engaging in the use of a technology tool or strategy. For example, teams could create an Aurasma or Google Street View of a downtown location of their choice. One of our favorite challenges to watch was the creation of a meme at a downtown bakery, The Blue Julep.
At the end of the competition, teams met at the historic Michigan Theater for a brief wrap-up, reflection and, of course, to announce the winning team.
Our team is passionate about pushing each other when it comes to Professional Development. We don’t always get it right, but our intent is to be on the lookout for more interesting, effective, and meaningful ways that we can help our teachers. Lately, we have experienced success using the principles of gamification. The elements of game play and friendly competition highlighted in Goose Chase both played a huge role in the fun and success of this day. Likewise, incorporating the history of the city of Jackson modeled the marriage of content and gamification to our young teachers. By highlighting the interesting elements of our community, we hoped to help our young teachers learn to love where they teach. New teachers are often in survival mode and don’t have time to explore these places outside of the normal school day.
Of course, we have to tip our hats to the fabulous group of new teachers we have the honor of working with as well. This group is motivated and up for anything, which makes taking a risk by trying something new significantly less scary. Watching their submissions come in throughout the day was a treat for us!
As always when trying something new, we learned so much through the process of designing, developing, and implementing this game. One of our biggest takeaways was the importance of creating relationships with the people in the community. While visiting locations prior to the event we were introduced to more stories and insights because of their personal experience. For example, it was only by talking to a staff member at one location that were able to learn about an alleged ghost at another. The staff at Experience Jackson were so excited about helping our young people get to know Jackson, they were willing to help us kick off the event and even provided some swag.
Forging these relationships made the event better than it would have been going at it alone, and gave us valuable resources for future school-community partnerships.
We are excited to continue using Goose Chase as an excellent way to engage participants and gamify content. Plans for a conference-wide competition at our annual EdTech Kickoff Event are already in the works. We anticipate that we will be in many classrooms in the coming months helping our teachers get started using it with their students, too. If you are interested in getting started with Goose Chase or have great ideas for how to use it, please let our team know!
They can also be reached via Twitter at @EdTechJXN or on Facebook at Team Jxn.