Monday, September 28, 2009

Educaching: GPS in the Classroom

What child would say “no” to a treasure hunt?

Educaching™ is a curriculum, inspired by the popular “geocaching” hobby,  that uses GPS technology to create an innovative learning atmosphere.  Children use GPS receivers to locate hidden “caches,” while learning technology and geography and reinforcing skills and knowledge in other curriculum areas.

The 140 page Educaching manual  ($32) begins with a teacher training chapter that explains educaching and GPS lingo, teaches the use of GPS receivers and suggestions for what features to look for when purchasing a GPS receiver. The chapter then covers the educaching concept. I found everything to be very well explained. This was important to me, since I had never used the GPS receiver before and was a bit nervous about tackling this project. By the time I had finished reading the training section, I was eager to start—This is a very fun concept!

DSC07486The remainder of the manual consists of lesson plans and field sheets. Twenty lesson plans are included, covering topics in math and science. After reading through just a few of the plans, I could easily come up with a dozen more idea for activities that would reinforce what we are already studying.

Most of the lesson plans require the teacher to first hide the “caches” and enter the “waypoints” into the GPS receiver. I attempted to do this in our yard and neighborhood,  but quickly found that, because of all the trees, the GPS receiver was not giving me accurate results. Bummer! It would be convenient to do this from home! Hopefully in the winter, when the trees have shed their leaves, we will have better results.

My next attempt took place in an open field. Much better! I was able to hide the small containers, show Emily how to use the compass feature of the GPS receiver to lead her to a waypoint and she was able to do it easily. This was just a practice session—the point was to practice setting and finding waypoints.

On to the actual lesson plans: We spent a long weekend at my sister’s lakehouse a couple of weeks ago, which gave us a good opportunity to spend some time on educaching projects. The property was wooded, but I was careful to set each of the waypoints in clear areas, such as the driveway, road, and dock. Although there was  tendency for the GPS receiver to lose its bearing at times, the setting was doable.

DSC07485

The first lesson plan involved finding averages. I hid pencils of 3 different lengths at the various waypoints. Emily had to note the waypoint coordinates, locate the “cache,” measure the pencils, find the average length, and record the data on her lab sheet.

The second lesson plan involved solving money riddles at each waypoint and again recording data on the lab sheet.

For our third activity, I introduced Educaching to some kids in our homeschool group at a local park. Again, we had some issues with the GPS receiver, possibly due to tree coverage. When dh comes from Korea next, I need to make sure I’m not missing something in the GPS receiver operation. I had the kids locate particular trees and collect leaves to be identified. In hindsight, I should have flagged the tree, so that the kids could be sure that they were at the correct waypoint.  It would have also been nice to have 2 or 3 GPS receivers, so that the kids could have broken into groups and competed to find the “cache.” I plan to do this activity again with Emily, in conjunction with a fall leaf study project.

The activities were met with great enthusiasm and we look forward to doing more of them. 

 Verdict: This is fun fun fun! If you have access to a GPS receiver, I think the $32 price for this book is a great value. It is a creative idea for using technology to both learn new skills and to reinforce existing curriculum.

Now that I know how to use dh’s GPS receiver, I think I’d like to try geocaching next….

3 comments:

  1. Our children have been involved in geocaching for more than a year or so and enjoy it. The Educaching curriculum sounds like a good way to get others started on geocaching.

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  2. Hello Debbie,
    We wanted to offer some help with the GPS receiver reception problems you experienced while under the trees. A majority of the newer receivers availiable today are called "high-sensitivity receivers." This newer technology allows them to be incredibly accurate under tree cover and in the woods. If you ever are in the market for a new receiver, we reccommend you look for one with high-sensitivity as a feature, it does make a big difference. Good luck trying Geocaching and thank you for your review!
    ~The Educaching Team

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  3. Good to know about the high sensitivity feature. I will have to put that on my wish list!

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