GPS receivers are a useful tool to enhance learning in the classroom. I’ve written all about geocaching in the classroom, but I wanted to share more uses for the GPS which I am exploring this year.
1) Travel Bugs – Travel Bugs, or trackables are objects or coins which move from geocache to geocache. They are logged on the geocaching website and you can see all of the places they have been. It is a great way to calculate distance, learn about geography in other places, and connect with other cachers. I have sent out two with my class. Flip, the prairie dolphin, has a goal of getting to the ocean. He’s been all through British Columbia and up into Alaska. Flop, Flip’s brother, is headed to Virgina. I’ve connected with two fellow GPS enthusiasts (@elemitrt @mswecker) who have sent The Big Lick Travel Bug to Lethbridge to visit my class. We’ll see which one gets there first. Click on the names of the travel bugs to see where they’ve been. The travel bug in the photo has a goal of getting to the Prime Meridan, I’m going to use it to teach my students about longitude. Another interesting trackable is the Canadian Geocoin, which I picked up in Lethbridge and moved 5988km to Dominica, my students will watch where it goes next.
2) Tracks – When you move your GPS can record your path and produce a diagram of your movement. There have been some neat large scale projects of creating images on a global scale – this video shows an amazing example. In the classroom, sending the students out into the school yard to create tracks for an art project or to create a given shape, such as an isosceles triangle in a geometry unit, gives a kinesthetic, hands on approach to teaching a concept.
3) Geotagging – Use your GPS to mark the location of local sounds, specific to your area. Freesound.org has an interactive Geotagging Map that you can explore to find sounds from all over the world and add your own local touch to.
4) Podcaching/GPS storytelling – This is like a guided tour at a tourist site. There is more information at this site. Students can listen to particular tracks at a marked location to learn content, get instructions to their next locations, or the guided tour can give them clues to move along a set path. I would recommend making one yourself first, then having the students create them. They could be wet up around a given theme, such as exploring a local pond, or they could be a story telling exercise, such as a choose your own adventure by having choices of tracks to take people various ways depending on their choice. This can be integrated with the GPS easily as your GPS can mark locations to listen to specific tracks.
5) Seek and Spell – A neat Iphone app. Using GPS users have to move around a field and collect letters to spell words. It is designed to challenge other users and see who can spell the most words or longest words. I don’t have an Iphone, and I haven’t tried this app, but I already envision adapting it to handheld GPS receivers. If you mark 26 locations around the school yard and have a stamp or stickers of each letter at a location student can spell their own words, or given words by visiting the marked locations.
6) QR Codes – QR codes are black and white squares, similar to UPC codes that can be scanned to gain information. The GPS can mark the location of a code, they find the code, scan it and answer the question. You can even have audio set up for each location with an Ipod to give clues to the question. This site has a great example of how they can be used. This site can create QR codes. You can decode QR codes with almost any camera phone, both Iphones can blackberries have an app. This site has a free download which works with most camera phones. In a high school where most students have phones – use them! Not so much for me in an elementary school (although there are some). I’m hoping the new Itouch, which is supposed to have a built in camera will do the trick for me.
Great GPS/Geocaching Resources:
Geocaching.com – the main site for geocaching
Geocaching Wiki Glog – a great collection of ideas, resources, and links. Join and add to it!
Geocacher University – a great resource site