Using GPS in education

For a while I have thought that there would be a number of ways to use a GPS receiver in an educational context. The biggest barrier has been the cost of supplying a whole class with enough GPS receivers to make a worthwhile activity.  This has changed in recent times with not only the cost of the receivers decreasing but also with the inclusion of GPS chips in smart phones and tablets, many students now have a GPS receiver in their pockets.

As an end of year activity we thought about a school wide treasure hunt with the use of GPS. I am sure that there are lots of others utilising this technology in education, but after a search I did not find much so I am recording our experiences here. We opted to use the schools set of iPad(1)s so we had enough devices for all of year 8.    The first task was locating an iPad app that did what we wanted and was intuitive for students to pick up and use.  To fill this need  MotionX was found which allows the easy entry of  waypoints (Lat/Long) , displays a map using the freely available options such as google maps or open street map, and has a compass for navigation to waypoints (it also has lots of other feature we want to play with later). Importantly for the iPads we were using, MotionX allows for true GPS or WiFi locating, as our current iPads do not have the 3G chips with true GPS capabilities (something I have recommended to those with buying powers for future purchases).

Screen shot from MotionX showing all waypoints on school map image.

The task we developed was a very traditional treasure hunt with 6 waypoints around the school. Students working in teams making their way from waypoint to waypoint.  At each waypoint students needed to answer a question or perform a task to gain the coordinates for the following waypoint, which they entered onto the device and then appears on the map allowing them to navigate to.  Each group was following its own path (see the path chart) and there were four possible paths (colour coded). Each waypoint had someone with colour coded cards with the next waypoints coordinates. Students did not see all the waypoints on the map until they had collected them and as the GPS does not work on the Ipad1, students had to rely on the map for navigation.

It was a great end of year activity and we are thinking of incorporating it into a units of work that teach students about latitude and  longitude. Taking a lesson before to teach these concepts and how they work on the app would have increased the efficancy of students during  the treasure hunt.

Group individual paths

Waypoint Data


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