GPS in education


One technology I am trying to find more uses for in the classroom is GPS technology. GPSs have been around for some time, but in many schools this technology is rarely used. Many schools need to think about making the GPS technology a larger component in learning. Technology is a key component of both Common Core and state standards.

In my opinion schools do not utilize this technology because of two reasons.

The first reason many school do not use GPS technology due to the absence of GPS devices. Every school that I know of is on a very tight budget that seems to be shrinking everyday. Buying a set of devices hasn’t been in the budget.

I am very fortunate to work in a school district that not only embraces a wide variety of technology, but I am at school that was awarded a large grant and the school purchased 14 very nice GPS devices. But even in my school, the GPS devices are rarely used. This is disappointing.

If your school or district does not currently have GPS technology there are some places to look.

Is there a local grant opportunity to write the purchase of GPS devices into the project? Garmin makes a low cost device that is very good for entry level at a $100 price point. (I just purchased the Garmin eTrex 10 and love it. I will post a review soon.)

If writing a grant is not an option, will your school or district be willing to purchase one or two devices. This isn’t idea for an entire classroom, but you can still teach with the technology. Years ago used just one GPS, which I purchased personally, with a classroom of 24 students. I developed enough activities to allow each student to hold and use the GPS. It obviously takes more time planning, but it can be done.

Many communities have set up an academic foundation to provide classrooms with extra funding options. Can you submit a proposal? Are there community groups or organizations who not only will let you borrow some devices, but will volunteer to help out during the lesson? This may take some time to investigate, but your students are worth the trouble.

If you are teaching with older students, many may have a GPS app on their phone. Could you allow students to use their phone to teach them about and utilize GPS technology? (What, let students use their cell phone in school, OH the horror!)

But using a GPS isn’t really about learning what a GPS does, but utilizing the tool in the social studies and science classroom to enhance the learning outside of the classroom.

That brings me to the second reason many school do not use GPS technology which is due to the requirement to get out of the classroom and go outside. In some cases this may require going off campus. (Take the students off campus, again, OH the horror!)

The world is full of lessons to learn. Do you think learning about weathering is better learned from reading a book or by going out into the community and seeing it first hand? Is watching a video allow students to touch the bricks of an old building that have the corners rounded because of the wind and rain’s effect over time? This takes time and planning. In some cases it takes money to pay for a field trip, but in most cases, the parents are willing to pay extra for these types of learning experiences.

Open your mind to the possibility that the GPS can be used to teach students a great deal about the world around them. And they will have fun doing it!

Look for a follow up post on using the GPS in education soon.