You don’t want a rag-tag band of unrelated activities, so come up with a theme! Referencing pop culture and student interests is a simple way to pique curiosity and generate initial interest in the activity. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to tie in to something that already exists. Create your own! Designing your own characters can grant you more flexibility with storytelling (and copyrights, should you decide to later share your work for profit). The key to any theme, however, is that it aligns well with the prospective activities. Choose something that goes hand-in-hand with what you want students to do. It will give you inspiration for both the narrative and the activity flow!
Choose a theme, then design activities that go with it, or plan activities and find a corresponding theme – the order is up to you! In my creative process, it’s a little of both. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to do a QR scavenger hunt with a Pokémon theme. Some of the core elements of Pokémon are exploration and collection, so it was a perfect match! The Pokémon games also hinge on battling, earning badges, and saving the world from an evil team. I used those ideas to guide my narrative and many of the activities.
Part of what makes many games so enjoyable is the story. Create a context for your activities so that students have an impetus to complete them other than as an assignment. By using a typical story formula, you can involve participants emotionally and get them curious to finds out what happens next. Introduce an “epic problem” that requires their intervention to resolve. Ask them to immediately take action and leave them uncertain of the subsequent outcome. The continuation and resolution of the narrative requires their continual participation. Build the dramatic tension, raise the stakes, and culminate in a “boss fight” climax that requires a synthesis of the target skills in order to succeed.
Be careful not to simply create a series of word problems coated in your theme. “Dumbledore calculates sales tax” and “Pikachu’s Quadratic Equation Adventure” are going to be tough sells. Devise a story-based problem which requires the skill in question in order to resolve.
Graphics aren’t everything, but when creating such a unique learning experience, some basic skills are very helpful! You don’t need to be a Photoshop wizard, but knowing a thing or two about manipulating and compositing photos can help bring your narrative to life. You won’t always find exactly what you want, so you should be able to make a simple, but effective version. This doesn’t just apply to images, but to all of your materials! Spice up your QR signs or student handouts with a consistent graphical theme.
I’m self-taught in all of my digital media skills, so there’s no need to be a pro in order to put together something eye-catching! I used two main programs to create the visuals for these activities: Adobe Photoshop for images and HitFilm Express for the accompanying videos.