Investigators erupt with excitement as the suspect appears, walking from his house to his car.
“Here it is!”
“Grab it! Quick!”
The Case: Lindbergh’s 1932 kidnapping. The Investigators: A group of students from Independence High School in Frisco, Texas. Thanks to their hard work, the man allegedly responsible for one of the most notorious crimes in US history has been apprehended.
Students in hiding in the 1930s? It’s actually the year 2022, and they’re sitting in Debbie Venteicher and Erin Stanley’s American Studies class, huddled around a device and working collaboratively to complete a digital escape created with Cordially. But from the reactions of the students, they seem to have forgotten that they are not on a real investigation.
“Not only are the students locked up and engaged, but conversations are buzzing in the room – with students discussing various facts surrounding the case. However, what they rarely know, Venteicher says, is that they are immersing themselves in 1930s pop culture. We can have in-depth conversations about how the media and Hollywood played a role in the events.
It has long been argued that experiential learning is the most effective way to master a subject. Studies show a 75% improvement in retention with experiential learning scenarios. The difficulty in bringing more of this type of learning into the classroom is the amount of time, effort, and resources typically required.
How can the average teacher achieve this when creating a real-life experience is not possible or feasible? Many are building digital experiences with content creation tools like Genially. Venteicher and Stanley adopted Genially for their Lindbergh project because it allowed them to create an engaging and professional-looking interactive experience for their students with minimal effort – no programming required!
7 Steps to a Genially Transformation
Lindbergh’s lesson began with a simple article with attached discussion questions. Turning it into a digital experiential activity required seven steps, which educators can follow when creating their own assignments:
1. Choose the appropriate topic
Not all lessons translate well to experiential learning, but many can with a little creativity. Consider topics that students struggle to remember, as well as those that have a real-world application or connection. Venteicher and Stanley chose the Lindbergh case because of its scope, importance, and potential for making it an interactive investigation.
2. Identify lesson objectives
As with all effective lessons, teachers need to ask themselves: what are the learning objectives of the experience? What will be the final assessment and how will the experience provide the scaffolding needed for students to succeed?
3. Brainstorm story elements
The key to any immersive experience is the story. “Students can have fun with the plot, and it makes them even more connected to the material,” says Heather Brandon, a biology professor at Independence who also uses Genially.
Here are some questions to consider:
- What is the content configuration?
- Is it an escape, an adventure or something else?
- How did the students find themselves in the scenario?
- What are they working towards?
With historic events like the Lindbergh affair, history has already been written; it is simply a question of determining the place of the students. For Venteicher and Stanley, it made sense for the students to take on the role of lead investigators in the case.
4. Choose a model
Users can browse Genially’s ever-growing library, which includes free gamification templates, to find what best fits the content and story. It’s okay if one pattern doesn’t match perfectly, as all of them can be customized and personalized. For example, “Detectives Breakout” was the starting point of Venteicher and Stanley’s Lindbergh investigation.
5. Consider content placement and check for understanding
Work through the template to determine where and how content and assessment can be provided in the story. For the first part of the Lindbergh investigation, the creation Genially asked the students to examine the details of the nursery crime scene (the contents) in order to prepare for a series of questions posed by the journalists during a press conference (the evaluation). Another part tasked them with gathering information in order to type up a report for J. Edgar Hoover himself.
The immediate feedback provided by these periodic comprehension checks is valuable.
“Students love knowing instantly if they’re right or wrong, which allows them to ask questions about their mistakes,” says Brandon.
6. Incorporate game elements
The stories are good, but the addition of interactive game elements makes them great. Genially made it easy for Venteicher and Stanley to integrate the following:
- drag drop
- Click animations
- Hidden objects
- Soundtracks and sound effects
- Pages locked with secret codes
- Timed animations
7. Assign Students
Genially’s creations can be attributed to students in different ways: via links, integrated into an LMS or web page or with a newly developed tool. To add which allows teachers to insert Genially creations directly into Google Classroom. With this feature, it is no longer necessary to switch between platforms to add and share Genially content to assignments, courses and activities.
To learn how to use the new add-on, take a look at the quick and free tool Genially Academy course.
In a rapidly changing educational landscape focused on developing and nurturing future-ready learners, it’s critical that educators inject experiential learning into our classrooms whenever possible. Seen in this light, the digital tools of the 21st century become less a novelty than a necessity. After all, there is no substitute for experience, whether in the real world or digitally.