Sunday, July 31, 2011

How to use Geocaching in Education



     Sorry for the lack of posts over the past few weeks. I have been traveling in Canada and decided to take a break from my blog for a while. 


    While on vacation in Canada, I spent several days with a friend's family traveling around Nova Scotia. His mom is very much into geocaching which involves using GPS devices to find hidden treasures. After giving it a try, I decided to create an account at Geocaching.com and download their app ($9.99) onto my iPad.   My friend and I then embarked on (sometimes frustrating) adventures to find hidden caches in the area. The treasures themselves are generally small, but the quest to find them is what makes geocaching so fun. It gets you out exploring places that you may have otherwise overlooked. 






    






      Geocaching can be a great hobby for just about anyone but also has great potential in education. It encourages inquiry based, hands on learning experiences while also providing opportunities to embed it into curriculum skills such as geography and mapping, math and history (if well planned). Educators could have students locate geocaches in the area or even create their own geocaches which are more closely linked with specific curriculum goals. Our grade 4 students, for example, recently did a unit on exploration which included learning about maps and coordinates. Geocaching would have been a great way to bring this unit to life. They could have used the experience to learn how to read maps and coordinates while engaging in the authentic experience of exploration. 





      Geocaching.com is the most popular website for geocaching and they also have apps for mobile devices, including iOS, Android and Windows 7 Phones. Using the website or apps, users can locate geocaches in their area and share their experiences with others. With over one million geocaches hidden around the world, there is a great chance that you will find lots of geocaches in your area.


     The app costs $9.99 for iOS devices which is fairly pricey as far as apps go, but works quite well overall. We did find that the compass acted strange at times, but were able to use it to get us within a few meters of the hidden cache. The app worked great for locating caches nearby and I was able to use it to share my experiences using my Geocaching.com account. 


    To start with geocaching, you will need to make sure that you have a GPS enabled device such as a smartphone, tablet or navigation device. If using a tablet such as the iPad, be sure that your device is 3G enabled. Create an account at Geocaching.com (the free one is fine) and download the app (optional) if desired. There is a free app to get you started. I would suggest that educators give geocaching a try on their own before testing it out in the classroom. It makes a great activity to do with your children and I am excited to test it out with my eight year old son very soon. If you have tried geocaching (either on your own or in the classroom), please provide feedback on your experiences. 







Links


Using GPS and Geocaching Engages, Empowers and Enlightens Middle School Teachers and Students 

  • This excellent article provides in depth information about how geocaching can be used in education. 

  • There are a number of useful discussions related to using geocaching in education 

10 Ideas for Using Geocaching at School 

  • This article from Creative Education provides useful tips for educators looking to use geocaching with their students.



StorySeeking

  • StorySeeking is a great site to use Geocaching with literacy. Students use geocaching as a way to read stories. 


GPS Lesson Plans 

  • Here are some great lesson plans to integrate Geocaching into your classroom. 

  • Here is a site which shows ways that geocaching is being used by other schools. There are many great ideas for integrating geocaching into different subject areas. 



Geocaching: The Hi-Tech Geographical Treasure Hunt


  • This is a great article which explains how geocaching can be used as an educational tool. 


The Science Spot: GPS and GIS Lesson Plans and Links


  • Here are some great lesson plans you can try with your students. 


  • Ideas for integrating geocaching into the math classroom.