Invention Investigators: Researching Inventions Using Digital Tools

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SWBAT conduct a short research project based on focused questions that builds knowledge about a topic.

Big Idea

In this lesson, students will get to choose an invention and will conduct a mini research project using digital sources and tools.

Enroll Students Into Learning

5 minutes

I start by telling the students how excited I am for today’s learning by saying, “Boys and girls…. I can’t WAIT to share with you what we’re going to do today!  Today, I’m going to share something special with you that I’ve created-just for you!  I have created a virtual field trip for you all about creative, inventive, and notable people!” 

My students are familiar with virtual field trips (VFTs for short) because I make them fairly often, and they love them!  A virtual field trip is really just a fancy name for online experiences that enhance a student’s understanding of a concept or topic in an engaging way through the use of technology!  When I create virtual field trips for my students, I use an online, website building service called  Here, I create websites for my students that including pictures, video links, interactive activities, links to various websites, and more to try to “take them to” the learning, therefore a “virtual” field trip.  I always share any virtual field trips I create with my entire team, so that all the students in our grade level can benefit, and I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback from kids and parents alike!

Here’s the link for the virtual field trip I’ve created for my students today:

Experience Learning

5 minutes

Before unleashing the students with a new VFT, I always begin by modeling how to use each one.  I try to create each VFT in a student friendly way, where navigation is easy enough to do, but, I try not to create them in the same format each time.  I want my students to gain skills that will enable them to navigate through different websites, and as we know, all webpages do not look the same.  I want to provide enough support that they’re successful, but still allow them a little room to grow by forcing the exploration process a bit!  Today, I walk my students through how to navigate the new VFT by pulling it up on our SmartBoard and having students help me click through various parts.  

Label New Learning

5 minutes

As the students help me work our way through the VFT, I will ask questions like, “Oh, look at this tab I’ve added for you.  It says, “Inventive”.  What do you think you’d learn about if you click on that tab?”  Students respond with, “Mrs. Hesemann, you’d learn about inventive people!”  I say, “You’re right!  That is what you’d learn about here!  And, while some of you may think that was a silly question for me to ask, I’m very happy that you were feeling this way!  This means, that you’re using text features, such as headings and tabs, to help you navigate through digital resources like this virtual field trip, just like we’d use text features in an informational text!”

I walk the students through a few more text features, showing them diagrams, photographs, videos, and links to other websites that I’ve included for them.  

Demonstrate Skills

10 minutes

Once I think my class understands how to navigate through the new VFT, I say, “Okay, third graders!  It’s time to do some investigating today!  I’m going to give you a note taking sheet and in just a moment, we’ll go through how to use this!”  I give each student an invention notes sheet that shows the focused questions we’ll be researching during this mini-project.  Once all students have a paper, I review the questions that we will try to answer as we research about the inventions of our choices.  (See the Resources section to see our Invention Notes page). 

Now it’s time for the part my students most love: choosing an invention!  I go to the “Inventive” part of our virtual field trip to show the students the inventions they have to choose from.  Here they’ll find the people who invented different inventions and so I share what each person invented with the students!  After showing each of the choices, I ask the students to write down at the top of their notes page which invention they’ve chosen to research!  Once they’ve made their note, we’re ready to head to the computer lab to start researching! 

Students quickly get their notes page, grab a pencil, and are ready to go!  Technology is so motivating for my students!  We line up and head to the computer lab, where students log in, get online, find their way to our classroom website, and then, begin to explore the new VFT!

This part of the lesson is so fun!  Anytime I’ve created a new VFT for my students, I love seeing how excited they are about getting online and exploring!  While the students are using the VFT, I walk around and remind students to make sure that they’re looking for answers to the questions they’re needing to answer about their invention choices!  I challenge them to see if they can get all of their questions answered, and remind them to use the text features, such as hyperlinks, videos, etc. to help them find their answers!


5 minutes

At the end of our allotted time in the lab, I tell the kids, “Alright third graders!  Time to log off!”  I remind them to treat our lab kindly by returning headphones, pushing in chairs, and making sure they’ve taken all their notes with them.  Before we leave the lab, I tell the kids, “On our walk back to our classroom, I want you to think of one thing you learned today about your invention by exploring our virtual field trip!  Sharing this with me when we return to class will be your ticket in!”  I use this as an exit ticket strategy, and when we get back, each student tells me something they’ve learned on their way back into our classroom.  I even have to remind some students to tell me just one thing for now-they’re so excited to share even more!