Help wanted: Active summer learning with technology?

The News Service Office here at Iowa State University has issued me a challenge: use my online network to come up with some ideas for parents to cure kids’ mid-summer ‘blahs.’ Specifically, what we’re looking for are ways to use technology to facilitate active learning opportunities during the summer.

Here are a few quick ideas that I had:

  • Discover the fun of geocaching.
  • Use a digital camcorder and YouTube to make a commercial for your city.
  • Use the WorldWide Telescope or Stellarium to find the view from your home. Then go outside at night to locate the sky features shown by the software.
  • Get involved with a project at TakingITGlobal.
  • Use Google Earth to make an annotated map of your summer trip.
  • Research a topic and create an article on Wikipedia.
  • Visit your grandparents or a nursing home or the local VFW chapter. Use a digital voice recorder to capture folks’ memories of a specific time period or event in history. Post as a series of podcasts.
  • Check out the pictures of your hometown on Flickr. Use a digital camera to add local landmarks that are missing.

I’m no longer a K-12 teacher so I’m sure that many of you have more creative ideas than these. What suggestions do you have for how parents and kids can use technology to facilitate active learning this summer?


A big THANKS to everyone who contributed ideas. So far we have appeared on the ISU News Service home page and the Ames (IA) Tribune editorial page. I also have been interviewed by WHO Radio and Radio Iowa. If you have further ideas, please share them as a comment below. We are getting lots of visitors!

19 Responses to “Help wanted: Active summer learning with technology?”

  1. Post a weekly digital storytelling of your life during summer break. Other school community members (kids, teachers, etc…) would all post to the same site to catch up w/ each other while on vacation.

  2. This strikes me as a way to have students and parents learn together, bridging the technology information gap.
    – Families could do a VoiceThread story about summer activites, a trip or summer project.
    – They could plan a trip together, anything from a day’s outing in their hometown to a month in a foreign country, finding information on spots of interest, food/accommodation etc. acting as their own tourist agents.
    – kids could teach their parents how to use social networking sites; how to setup a home page using iGoogle or Pageflakes.
    – kids could track their summer reading on Shelfari or Library Thing

    There are endless possibilities. At very least I will make sure to include some of them in the final newsletter that goes home to parents in June.

  3. Online book clubs…

  4. Another option that could be really interesting (depending upon how it is executed) would be to set involve the kids in Youth Twitter.

    You could have the kids collect data about specific things relating to kids all across the US and throughout the world. This would be a great way to expose kids to different people and ideas.

  5. As a corollary to your suggestion of getting involved in projects on TakingITGlobal, we also have a new site that would also be a great addition to your list. Youth Media Exchange: is a digital media sharing network for youth around the world and has guided learning activities as well as a mentoring system to help students build both their digital media skills and global knowledge.

  6. In light of geocaching, I’ve found that if you add a service twist to the activity, you get more meaning out of it.

    For example, instead of simply visiting different geocaches, how about if you turn the activity around and gather the coordinates to various landmarks in your neighborhood (of fire-hydrants, man-holes, or McGruff houses, for instance)? Coordinates can then be submitted to Google Earth or elsewhere for further distribution.

    In my opinion, these activities with purpose are the most engaging.

  7. Simple idea – Students could create and maintain a blog about the summer ventures to keep them writing on a regular basis.

  8. How about using Google Sketchup to “recreate” the city of the past, build the town of today, or create a vision for the future. All in 3-D!
    Young and old would love this challenge!

  9. I would highly recommend using gcast to do a travelogue podcast from their cell phone to share their travels with their friends and family. Or for movie reviews or book reviews

    I just started using it and it is wonderful!

  10. Perhaps using a wiki or to track your summer reading and reviewing/rating the books?

    Collect items from nature (for elementary) and then post photos of them on a tumblr site.

    Find an epal in another country for the summer?

    Learn a new language by listening to podcasts of daily phrases.

    Learn new vocabulary words by listening to Princeton Reviews Word of the Day song podcasts.

    Photograph the alphabet in the world around you and add to Flickr’s letter collection. Try to collect a photo of each letter of the alphabet.

    Contribute reviews to Nancy Pearl’s Booklust website area for students.

  11. I’m planning to kind of combine a couple of these…

    I’ve been geocaching and Flckring for a while, but I recently bought an AMOD AGL3080 GPS Data Logger to explore the world of geotagging my digital photos!

    I intend to post to Google Earth the pics from our trip to Yellowstone.

  12. Make a custom Google Map of the historic sites in your city, or of the tourist attractions. You can customize the “bubbles” with YouTube videos or pictures that you take yourself or find online. Share the completed map with the local visitor’s bureau or historical society so they can link to it on their website.

  13. How about having students create Google Lit Trips to go along with whatever they are reading?

  14. Between the Headlines

    Take an international news story that breaks over the summer and compare how various news agencies on-line deal with it. Compose your own ‘truth’ from the disparate perspectives of your research and post a story on a local blog.

    Social Responsible Broadcaster

    Create a channel on You Tube for short films and animation around a social issue. Research and link with other related sites and communities and create a ‘buzz’ through posting and commenting about your channel. Try to raise local sponsorship for a prize and advertise their products on your channel.

    Global Lemonade Stand

    Search and engage in a dialogue online with someone from another country and try to design a product that you think you could sell to both countries and could be jointly produced in both countries – or hook up with more individuals to complete a whole supply chain.

  15. Use voicethread to record oral storytelling from family members. Imagine using old photos to stimulate stories by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. I wish I was able to do this with my grandparents.

    I bet if you show your kids the tools you have at your disposal, they will come up with interesting ideas to do as well.

  16. For travel documentation, if you have a photo cell phone, you can send updates to a tumblog (http:/ via SMS including photos. Just ask to be assigned an email to send it to. It will limit you to 160 characters, but you could also spread an opus over multiple entries. It’ll teach you kid how to use th cell for SMS, picture taking, thumbing a keyboard (perhaps doomed for demise, but who knows?) but more importantly, how to document an experience.

    You can find it under Goodies (

    I spend time doing a blog for our trip up to Montana about 3 years ago when Leroy was 6. Lee didn’t type stuff in, but I showed him what I was adding each night, and we still view the pics today. We’ll be doing a quick trip to Boise, and one down to Kern County this summer (in addition to Boy Scout camp), so I’ll try this then.

  17. Find the Wikipedia stubs in Google Earth for local cities/census areas, research some of the local history (street names, landmarks, etc.) and flesh out the article.

  18. Patti Thornborough Reply June 17, 2008 at 11:59 am

    I really liked the ideas that everyone gave. As far as digital pictures, kids could take digital pictures throughout the summer and make their own movie on Microsoft MovieMaker highlighting the best part(s) of their summer. It would kind of be like a digital journal that they can do each summer to give them something to keep as a memoir.


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