MysteryQuest USA: The Potential of Ed Tech Funding

Today ISTE and the EdTech Action Network are leading a campaign to support federal funding of educational technology (EETT).

So, what specifically, do educational technology dollars do in schools?

One example of the power of educational technology for student learning is the MysteryQuest format. Today we have 11 4th and 5th grade classes from across the U.S. participating in two sessions of MysteryQuest USA, a videoconference project that involves students in presenting, researching, and using geography skills to determine where the other classes are.

Watch a Video Clip

Students Present Clues About Cities & States

In a MysteryQuest USA, the classes begin by sharing required clues about their city and state (or about another city/state they selected). The clues are tightly aligned to the state and national social studies curriculum. Here are some sample clues from the classes today.

Some clues are shared on posters.

This clue was a model – and the students explained that their city was NEAR the city where this model was. But today, most of the schools missed that distinction and guessed St. Louis incorrectly.

This school shared their posters via their interactive whiteboard software (Promethean in this case.)

Some clues made the other class work a little bit to get the piece of information they needed.

Some clues were shared via PowerPoint.

All in all, students spend about an hour frantically taking notes on all the other classes presentations. They are so engaged, they don’t realize how hard they are working!

Research Time

During the 30 minutes of research, students use maps and Internet resources to figure out the mystery locations presented by the other classes. Students work in teams to research the 5 presentations by the other classes. They use their problem solving skills to solve clues and figure out the city and state.

Students Researching: Photo by Paul Hieronymus


After research time, each group has the opportunity to ask a clarifying question of the other classes to see if they are on the right track. The students ask creative questions to see if they are right without giving away their guess to the other classes. Here are a couple examples:

  • Is your city near the bear dunes?
  • Was your city affected by the oil spill?

After clarifying questions, classes have another 5-10 minutes to research. Then they share their guesses. Some groups prepare visuals to share their guess:

Finally, each class shares their correct answer, and their actual location (if they were presenting another location), and signs off with a cheer.

What learning goes on?

  • Students work in groups to prepare their presentations – practicing interactive group skills.
  • Students engage deeply in the content of state geography and U.S. history – both to prepare their presentations and to guess what the other classes presented.
  • Students use problem solving skills to figure out what the other classes presented.
  • Students use presentation skills to speak clearly and slowly enough that the other classes can understand the clues.
  • Students meet and get to know students in different areas of the country.

Compare this to an alternative method of learning about states: students creating reports about the states after reading in the textbook. Which way would you rather your students/children learn? By problem solving or regurgitating information?

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