The Icons race is one of the feature components of our Year 9 Urban History program. Students work in groups of three and navigate their way around Melbourne trying to locate key features and fixtures of the Melbourne CBD. Traditionally students received cards with clues and needed to decipher the exact location that they needed to travel to. The group would then need to work out their travel route and collect a souvenir, usually in the form of a photo. Once the group had solved the clues on the card, they would race back to the one of three checkpoints where a staff member would provide them with the next set of clues. The race worked well for the most part with the card system but there was a lot of time spent transitioning back to the same fixed location instead of exploring our great city. Groups stayed in contact with teachers by random phone calls and of course the check ins at the checkpoints. By in large most students engaged with the activity but there were definitely areas to improve. When we began a review of the program last year, I replaced the card system with a Geocaching race where students downloaded the Geocaching app and using the GPS on their phones tried to locate geocaches around Melbourne. The below instructions are an example of what I gave the students.
Each group had to find ten geocaches from the designated list with each group starting at a different point. Due to the challenging nature of some of the geocaches, students also used the photo taking capacity of the app to take “selfies” at the location coordinates. All in all, the Icons race worked well but the Geocaching element just wasn’t the right fit. Students enjoyed the treasure hunt nature of the geocaching experience and especially enjoyed the ‘selfie’ element so when I was reviewing the Icons race, I looked for a solution that captured these elements.
Voxer was the choice that won out. Voxer is basically a walkie talkie for your phone or mobile device and it allows a user to send/receive text, voice or pictures. Another great feature that I wanted to explore was Voxer’s use of the mobile device’s GPS to capture where an image, voice recording or text was sent from. This feature would allow the teachers running the Amazing race to verify a student’s location. Voxer is also so easy to use and deploy. To begin with, I collected 16 iconic Melbourne images which formed the trail of the Amazing race. Each group was given an address to start at. To receive their first clue, students had to prove that they were at the address. This was usually a photo of the address or a selfie on location. We used Voxer’s location settings to make sure that students were actually there. Students were then sent an image of an iconic Melbourne landmark and they had to make their way there. Once they arrived, they had to respond with a selfie at the location (verified by the teacher) to receive their next clue.
The next clue was a text challenge that required the group to search the venue for the answer. Many students went searching for plaques or engaged with employees at venues to find the answer. Once they had submitted their response, the group was then given their next landmark to travel to. The aim of the Icons race is to give our students a better understanding of our city’s physical dynamics and to engage with the city. Students had to use their group smarts to track the quickest, most efficient route to their next clue and then they had to spend some time learning about each iconic landmark. As the students are Year 9 students, there are afforded a greater deal of independence but Voxer enabled teachers to be aware of where each student group was at all times. Staff would sent groups a voice message and ask where they were and students would respond and their location could then be verified. The purse in Bourke street proved challenging for some students and a staff member was easily able to direct groups to this location by looking at the group’s current location. I am wanting to add more engagement with the city and other Melbournians to the next Icons race and have already asked students to make this Icon race even more games based.