Friday, April 11, 2008

Mobile Timelines: Field Trip, Mission Trip, or Local Scavenger Hunt

Using a free web resource called Whrrl students could document a location-based learning experience outside of school. Whrrl is a SMS social networking map tool, yet it can be an effective tool for students to document their local and distant travel experiences. Students can send SMS text messages to a private Whrrl map from each location they visit. Whrrl will then number each location, which creates "footprints" on the map of where students visited (numbering their visits, with a number/time/date), along with their text message experiences of the visit. For example, students can do a local social studies scavenger hunt, where they can use their cell phones to create a map-based travel journal of a learning experience. The teacher can give students local community "items" to find such as a home that was used on the underground railroad or where to go for jury duty. The students would visit these locations, get answers to questions (provided by their teacher), and then SMS text their answers along with the proper location to the Whrrl map. Whrrl is similar to Flagr (expect Flagr allows pictures, and Whrrl does a better job documenting contributions). Whrrl maps also include local attractions. While in the United States this could be used for planning a school trip (such as going to Washington DC), In cultural studies it could be used for foreign language students to role-play a travel agency helping Americans plan trips to a foreign country (Whrrl maps all over the world!).

The other nice feature of Whrrl is that students do not need to be in the location to SMS text about the location. So they can do some timeline projects based on people who lived in different cities or events that took place in other countries. For example, students reading a biography in English or Social Studies class, could create a timeline map of the experiences of the person or events in the biography. Such as a biography of Ernest Hemingway and documenting the places that Hemingway lived and wrote his novels (and if/how those living experiences may have influened the particular novels he was writing at the time). Or students studying the spread of influenza in Europe and North America the early 1900's, could trace the spread by short SMS stories or quotes that they uncover doing their homework reading about the spread.

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