Send Them on Learning Missions

Send Them on Learning Missions

Included in the Digital Tips Advent Calendar and part of the Effective Technology Integration category

“If you think of learning as a path, you can picture yourself walking beside her rather than either pushing or dragging or carrying her along.” ~ Polly Berrien Berends

We are born curious. Observe toddlers playing and you will notice their eyes questioning the objects around them. Through experimentation and play, they resolve their own questions. When kids go to school, this natural learning process is interrupted and redefined. Kids are expected to learn about their world by sitting quietly in desks, reading textbooks, and completing tests where one answer has been determined right. It’s the wrong kind of learning. It’s tedious, boring, and doesn’t make sense in a world where they are many solutions that lead us on different paths.

I want to be the kind of teacher who inspires my students to actively learn beyond my class, because they are curious. I began to integrate some of the characteristics of game based learning that invites them to learn through missions and challenges. Technology and blended learning helped me encourage my learners to explore beyond our class. I stopped giving mandatory homework and began to give them a choice of missions and challenges. I explain the process below.

Motivating Students to Keep Learning During Breaks from Shelly Terrell

Some Ideas

Create an online community

  • Set up a class blog, wiki, Facebook group, Google Plus Community, Twitter, Instagram and/or Edmodo site.
  • Keep it active by posting video and image challenges, polling them, posting fill-in-the blank statements, featuring their work, and hosting events like chats or Hang-outs on Air
  • Let the students organize their own chat topics and times. You can do this by having students set-up a calendar and organize their own chats. They may want to have a chat for those interested in discussing poetry, another for music, another for a book club, etc. Determine student leaders in your class to lead and manage the discussion.

Give them a choice of missions that are engaging. Below is an example.

Mission: Snap a photo of graffiti you think is art. In a video or presentation app, tell us why you think it is art versus just graffiti.
What You’ll Need: An app like Skqueak, Instagram, Voicethread, or Fotobabble.
Points Worth: 10
Bonus Points: Post a short reflection in your blog for 5 more points.

Set-up missions in an advent calendar

  • Each day your students can find a new mission worth points. See this post on how to make an interactive calendar with Thinglink or Wix.
  • Mix up the tasks to include various activities like visiting museums, attending a play, snapping a picture outside, playing an online game, completing a brainteaser, or creating with web apps and tools
  • Optional: Provide a points system

Integrate games

Send them on a scavenger hunt

The Scavenger Hunt with Friends App is free and available on IOS and Android.

Organize a global project!

Host virtual field trips. I’ve bookmarked virtual tours here.


Try one of these tasks and see which motivate your students to keep learning!

cross posted at

Shelly Terrell is an education consultant, technology trainer, and author. Read more at

Shelly Terrell is an education consultant, technology trainer, and author. Read more at