So Many Possibilities for GPS and Geocaching Webquest for the Classoom

I’d started thinking about this idea a while ago because one of the skills that is always taught in the 4th and 5th grade in the fall are the basic terms of geography. At my new school I wanted to possibly try something different and more in line with project based learning.  I had thought of trying to modify a webquest I had come across for a trip across the U.S. by Sheila Rutherglen. I had emailed her asking if she had updated the project, but she hadn’t been teaching the appropriate grade level for awhile and so hadn’t done anything with it. That was too bad because I was thinking that with Google maps and travel information for every major city for hotels, there might be several opportunities for the students to be very specific at where they would stay, food, and places visited. I periodically check the blog googlemapmania for modifications that I can use in the classroom and heck someone has even come up with a way to find a hotdog stand in Chicago. I also thought that the Mapquest feature that allows students to input the longitude and latitude to find locations would be very useful. I didn’t have enough time to put together what I wanted, but now with Quest Garden up and running as Bernie Dodge had promised at the NECC, I may be able to create a webquest for next fall. He also happened to mention an interesting combination of Google maps and Flickr called geobloggers which has great potential but it runs a little slow. The site says,

"The idea is that you go out into the (urban) wild armed with a camera and possibly a GPS unit. You take a bunch of photos and upload them to flickr. Then you add "tags" which lets geobloggers (and other sites) know where the photo was taken, using "geotagged", "geo:lat=xxx.xxxx" and "geo:lon=xxx.xxxx". Flickr handles the management of the photos, geobloggers does the rest."

Towards the end of November I am going to Japan for three weeks and one of the recommendations was to buy a GPS device to help navigate through the train stations. As I researched I came across geocaching. Earlier in the year I had been recommending to a few of my students and parents that are technically inclined and were looking for social activities to try it out and recommended the web site that looked like the best place to start. There seemed to be many possible applications in education but without the tools I a wasn’t sure how to incorporate the activity into the classroom. Today David Warlick has an (as always) excellent overview about the activity as well as many potential activities for the classroom.

I was reading about the digital story telling event that KQED is sponsoring and while I didn’t have a chance to drive up to San Francisco, in the paper Mike Langberg of the San Jose Mercury wrote about Hewlett Packard sponsoring the use of iPaq pocket PCs and GPS to create a walk though called Scrape the Hood which sounded very promising. As the participants walked through the neighborhood their location which was located with GPS would allow them access to stories or explanations of events that had happened there in the past.  Members of the Antenna theatre participated and I had attended many events in the 80’s and 90’s that they had created using walkmans. I loved the sense of dislocation caused by the incongruity of what the eyes were seeing versus what the ears heard. One of the examples sounded similar to what I had experienced with the sound at one location of  running water because a stream originally was located there. I was also reminded of a radio event that was broadcast from the essential and groundbreaking radio station KPFA. I was with a group of people following instructions via the radio and they involved the hypothesis that there were catacombs underneath the streets of San Francisco and the aged artist (I can’t remember his name) and former member of the 60’s Fluxus movement was following us beneath the ground and explaining the appearance of what was under our feet. I’ll always remember the look on the face of a hotel clerk as we walked through the lobby listening to a voice telling us what was underneath our feet.

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