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Adventure learning

Adventure Learning (AL) is a hybrid distance education approach defined in 2006 by Aaron Doering, a 2008 Tech Awards ( laureate and associate professor at the University of Minnesota. AL provides students with opportunities to explore real-world issues through authentic learning experiences within collaborative online learning environments, and is anchored in experiential and inquiry-based learning. It includes educational activities that work in conjunction with the authentic experiences of 'researchers' in the field. For example, within an AL program, the curriculum, the experiences and observations of the researchers, and the online collaboration and interaction opportunities for participating learners are delivered synchronously so that learners are able to make connections between what is happening in the real world and their studies, and then reflect on those events and present potential solutions to issues that are raised.

In the early 1990s, explorers such as Will Steger, Dan Buettner, Robert Ballard, Lonnie Dupree, Paul Pregont, and Mille Porsild began experimenting with ways to use technology to connect classrooms with their experiences on the trail. The Jason program pushed the envelope of transmitting from the field as they communicated while diving the ocean, and Classroom Connect generated a comprehensive curriculum and learning objectives tied to the field experiences, drawing in learners with their "student-choose-the-route" approach. Advances were made with Arctic Blast 2001, in which schools were able to collaborate online on tasks within a secure space as well as participate in moderated chats with subject-matter experts using Lotus Notes, Sametime Chat, and Quickplaces, earning the IBM Beacon Award for best educational use worldwide of IBM technologies in 2002.

In 2006, Aaron Doering published the first established definition, framework, and guiding principles of adventure learning. The guiding principles were refined by Doering and Charles Miller in 2009. The first adventure learning program “supported by theory and long-term research” was the GoNorth! Adventure Learning Series of circumpolar Arctic dogsledding expeditions, which reached millions of learners worldwide and explored such topics as sustainability, the environment, science, and traditional cultures. Other examples of adventure learning projects include Earthducation, the Project, Ride To Learn with the To Learn Series, and the Quest series of bicycle treks (e.g., see [1]).

Guiding Principles of the AL framework
Figure 1. Guiding principles of the AL framework
Guiding Principles of the AL framework
Figure 1. Guiding principles of the AL framework
Figure 1. Guiding principles of the AL framework
Figure 1. Guiding principles of the AL framework
  • the identification of an issue and respective location of exploration
  • a researched curriculum grounded in problem-solving that guides the progression and evolution of the AL program
  • collaboration and interaction opportunities between students, experts, peers, explorers, and content
  • education that is adventure-based
  • exploration of the issue, environment, local population, culture, and additional relevant factors that provide an authentic narrative for students and teachers to follow
  • design and utilization of an Internet-driven learning environment for curricular organization, collaboration, and media delivery
  • enhancement of the curriculum with media (e.g., photos, video, audio, etc.) and text delivered from the field in a timely manner
  • synched learning opportunities with the AL curriculum and online learning environment
  • pedagogical integration guidelines and strategies for the curriculum and online learning environment


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