Mark is a Digital Literacy Teacher at Barrington Public Schools in Rhode Island. He has been using Tyto Online since 2021 with sixth and seventh-grade students, recently completing Seal of Disapproval and The Big Sneeze.
“Seal of Disapproval was amazing. Students really worked hard to make strong connections to food webs and understand how to navigate the environment for inquiry.
I recognized that a lot of students were asking better questions, especially when prompted to seek evidence supporting their conclusions. It was very evident that students were impacted by collaborative inquiry, so that they would discuss an argument together and consider solutions with multiple perspectives."
I start by building background knowledge using real-world videos or an article related to the topic. For Seal of Disapproval, we learned about the local seal population in the Narragansett Bay, something that was familiar to our Rhode Island students. We discussed why seals were important to the ecosystem and some of the dangers they face (predators, boats and ships, pollution). These activities tend to excite the students who began wondering about how this will connect to the Tyto quest. I also introduce an essential question that we will return to later in the unit. An example might be "How do my local behaviors and community impact marine life in the ocean?"
I found that it helped to ground students during the unit with an offline task for reflection. I modified the summary table and named it the Tyto Inquiry Graphic Organizer [TIGO]. Students would actively record their observations, evidence, and deductions as an Exit Ticket. I would review each one as a formative assessment of their quest experience and provide digital comments. I would also consult with the "Track Progress" section of the Tyto dashboard to get an overall sense of students' attempts at the inquiry tasks. For the next class, I could identify students that I should address with an intervention and offer direct instruction for the whole group.
Along the way, I encouraged students to take snapshots of their activities and embed them into a timeline. For our final activity, I asked students to produce a series of storyboards that reflected their learning progression. The students narrated a brief slideshow of the screenshots to reflect their journey through the storyline as a summative submission for their digital portfolio along with their TIGO formative feedback.
Students have reflected that they feel a stronger emotional bond to their class by participating in online quests. The importance of exploring a new, futuristic world in a custom avatar provides them with choice and identity. They are able to explore without judgment and imagine a participatory culture that is less stigmatized. In the long-term, I am hopeful that they can collaborate or pair with a partner to meet some of the challenges within the program. Currently, I ask students to share their ideas with partners and follow the pair-programming strategy. Pair programming allows students to offer guidance without taking over the computer or simply giving away the answer. This strategy empowers learners to build personal capital within the classroom, build perseverance, and minimize frustration.
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