Tech Tool of the Month: Mission US Part 1

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Mission US is a collection of free interactive games to engage students in learning US History. This tool was created for upper elementary and middle school students to learn about transitional times in US history. The missions immerse students in historical settings and empower students to make choices about how everyday people lived in the past. Players can move through the activities and meet various characters from all walks of life and different periods of history. There are currently five missions for students to play: For Crown or Glory, Flight to Freedom, A Cheyenne Odyssey, City of Immigrants, and Up from the Dust.


Applying the Triple E Framework

The Triple E Framework, created by Dr. Liz Kolb, is built on the belief that “effective technology integration begins with good instructional strategies and not fancy tools.” Dr. Kolb wrote a book on the topic: Learning First, Technology Second. Technology can be used to Engage in learning goals, Enhance learning goals, or Extend learning goals. We can use this framework to decipher why we are using specific tools in the classroom. Here is a rubric we can use to evaluate Mission US (and any others) using the Triple E Framework. Use the rubric as you decide if a tool is a good fit with your learning goals and why you should (or shouldn’t) use the technology tool in the lesson. 

  • Engage in learning goals: The students are more focused on the task because they are engaged in online activities as they work at their own pace through the mission. The students are active social learners, rather than just passively reading the story. Students get to make choices at the site that illuminate the types of choices that ordinary people have made in the past. Mission US has no extra distractions or advertisements to divert students’ attention from the content and activities. The students are more motivated to begin the learning process since they get to make decisions and are active participants in the mission. 
  • Enhance learning goals: Mission US allows students to use technology to make connections to understand concepts and ideas. Activities are not isolated in workbooks or stand-alone; they all connect to a time in history (and fictional character). Students are using problem-solving and higher-order thinking skills to organize their thoughts and complete the missions. Mission US scaffolds the learning through the simulations, primary source documents, and additional activities provided on the site. Mission US takes the students and puts them into the history lesson, rather than having students just read about the past. Students also get to make decisions they feel will yield the best results. Many of the challenging vocabulary words are also hyperlinked (with audio) for deeper understanding. All of this enhances their learning and offers a more sophisticated and deeper understanding of these times in US history. 
  • Extend learning goals: Dr. Kolb describes extended learning as an opportunity for students to learn outside of their typical school day, connect and collaborate outside of the regular school day, and as a bridge between the school day and real-life experiences. Completing Mission US activities outside of the classroom would fit in with flipped or blended learning. Depending on the activities you are using, students can collaborate outside of the school day. Students could also work collaboratively in class, working in small groups would be a very purposeful choice, as fewer devices would be required, and students could help each other through the steps of the assignment. The independent learning and activities required when using Mission US can help students to build skills used in everyday lives outside of the classroom environment. We are preparing our students for a world that doesn’t exist yet; however, most jobs do require independent motivation and knowledge of technology. Mission US and the activities will also help to prepare students for learning beyond the classroom, as they will likely need to use digital tools and follow a designed plan in their future employment and personal life. This tool also asks students to problem-solve and to choose the best possible answer throughout the missions; this will also help students in their futures when making decisions.


SAMR Connection

The SAMR Model, by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, suggests that technology implementation has four levels. We can use this model as a guideline to analyze how we are incorporating technology tools in the classroom. Depending on how you are using Mission US, your lesson could be considered augmentation or modification. 

  • Augmentation: At the level of augmentation, the technology is acting as a direct tool substitute, but with functional improvements. A lesson using Mission US could be at the augmentation level since the audio, animated images, and stories based on students’ decisions is not something that could be read in a regular textbook without the technology. These improvements allow students a deeper understanding of the content. 
  • Modification: The level of modification allows us to make the activity something more integrated with technology, meaning the activity could not even be done without technology. For example, a lesson plan using Mission US allows students to virtually step into the roles of various historical (fictional) characters. Mission US fully immerses students in these “lands of the past” through animation, video, and exploration. Achieving this would not be possible without technology.


Don’t miss Part 2 of the Tech Tool of the Month: Mission US. We will discuss how to use the tool and provide classroom use ideas. In the meantime, let us know in the comment section below how you have used Mission US in your education setting.

About the author: Melissa Henning

Melissa Henning is the Educational Content Manager for Source for Learning, the non-profit parent company of TeachersFirst. She has over 16 years of experience in education. Melissa is a frequent presenter at national and regional conferences.

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