Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Should GPS Be Introduced in the Outdoor Ed Curriculum?

Geocaching is quickly becoming a hit with families across the nation. It's a purpose for exercising and discovering new areas around where you live or while on vacation. The thrill of geocaching, as I'm coming to understand, isn't about what you find, it's the hunt. But is it purposeful in education?
I wrote a grant to purchase handheld GPS devices for our Outdoor Education curriculum, but the coordinator of the program pulled their support at the 11th hour. My thinking behind the grant was to develop a route to keep kids on the path that they've been using for years by marking waypoints (Geocache glossary) where the current path markers (red string) are located. There would also be a waypoint where teachers would do the instruction...the same instruction that they've done in the past. I was not trying to change the curriculum. I was trying to build enthusiasm on the way to the curriculum. The coordinator didn't believe that students would stay on the path. She thought that students would spend more time looking at the "device" than observing around them in nature. My response was a) that's why I put waypoints on the trail and b) the teacher's need to hold them accountable (and not all students would have a handheld...switching back and forth). I don't feel that introducing handheld GPS devices will hurt current class management issues. I'm not suggesting typical geocaching. It's not a free for all to get to the next spot. She also quoted research that said kids spend more time using technology than in nature. I completely agree, but aren't we introducing this technology so kids will get out in nature more?? So we are on hold for now. We do have two more grant opportunities before next summer, but I would like some feedback as to how you would approach this situation. We talk all the time about making change...this is a big change for this person and this curriculum. The coordinator has agreed to let a teacher (who is big into geocaching) try it out in a couple weeks, so we'll see how it goes. I still would like to have any good feedback or advice that you have!

Always happy to share great resources: Jason Everett is working on a GPS Blog at ESU 10 here in Nebraska. I know he is working on more content for the new blog, so check back soon.

Additional resources that are coming in:


Gregg Robke said...

I just posted a blog about using geocaching in the classroom, which gives examples of how it can be used in the classroom. We started geocaching as a family activity this summer (to get out kids out more). You can read more about it in my blog ( Your comments are well noted and it shows the resistance of some to try out a tool to enhance what students are already learning.

Kim said...

Geocaching has been a great experience, and as Gregg said in his comments, our kids are seeing how skills they have already learned in class can be used. No matter what the learning activity, it isn't about the technology - i.e. the tool that gives them the "wow" factor - it's about changing the way we teach. This teacher is correct in thinking the kids will be excited about the device, and they will get a little sidetracked along the way, but research shows the eventual outcome is totally worth the change in environment! Teachers who use authentic projects in the classroom are risk takers! I highly recommend Reinventing Project-Based Learning (Boss, Krauss, Conery) as a resource for teachers who desire to become risk takers in an effort to address the needs of a digital generation. Keep trying on your grant, I think it is a great idea!

J Allen said...

Thanks Gregg & Kim. I love the feedback and the resources. I'm always appreciative of you great perspective!