Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Personal Story

Hide and Seek!
Jason Hubbard
Woodland Elementary
Perrysburg, Ohio
Alone in the woods with only my handheld GPS device and millions of dollars worth of satellites to help me navigate, I was looking for a small container hidden off the beaten path. Elated with joy, I finally found my tiny canister containing a clue that would prompt me to solve a simple math problem. As I excitedly fumbled with my pen and a scrap of paper to evaluate a numerical expression, I double checked my calculations and was on my way to find the final hidden prize! For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, geocaching is an outdoor adventure that utilizes GPS technology to take people on high-tech scavenger hunts for hidden caches. Now, imagine using this concept to take students beyond the four walls of the classroom on engaging hunts centered around their learning and you’ve got what I call educaching!
I realized that a unique hook for learning could be found in educaching. I began, a la “cart before the horse,” by writing a teacher’s manual to help myself and other teachers who wanted to implement this strategy from the ground up and began using my own students as guinea pigs to pilot test the program and see if it had worth. The first year, I started a GPS-based after school club with 5th graders. To my surprise, half of the 5th grade showed up and I found myself in charge of 43 students (and quickly scrambling for parent volunteers!). The students simply wanted to use the technology to search for things I had hidden on the school campus. They enjoyed the thrill of seeking for something hidden. Imagine...students being thrilled to learn and wishing they could stay at school longer in order to do so...this is what happens through the vehicle of educaching.
The concept is simple: I arm groups of students with a handheld GPS and take them outdoors where I have pre-arranged clues in hidden containers. Each group begins searching for an assigned container which holds a math problem, for example. If the problem is solved correctly by the team, the answer tells them which numbered container to find next and they’re off running to the next location using their GPS device.  If they answer incorrectly, they clamor to correct their work in order to find the right solution. Another type of learning in this context can be pictured in a lesson I call “Grand Slam.” In this lesson, the students are teamed up and take turns kicking a kickball from home base. The total distance of each kick is measured by the students with the GPS device. They then calculate the mean, median, mode, and range of their personal kicks and compare with kicks of their classmates. It ends up being an exciting lesson that allows them to directly participate in their learning with their own data. When doing these kinds of educaching lessons, the students don’t even realize that they are using problem-solving skills, team collaboration, science, mathematics, language arts, and good communication all wrapped up into one exciting experience.
After GPS club and using this curriculum periodically throughout the school years with my students to engage them in lessons, I also studied educaching in my action research concerning the effects on motivation of today’s learners by using GPS in education. The results of the research are undeniable...providing students with this technology, cultivating outdoor learning environments, and providing a framework similar to “The Great Race” is a formula for success when it comes to student engagement. I can’t wait to see what happens next! I have plans to guide my students to create an outdoor educaching park adjacent to our school’s campus. The hunts will be completely student-created and maintained and would center on learning mathematics, science, and local history. This will also connect my 5th graders with their community as they would be creating an educational environment that everyone can utilize: from homeschoolers, to scouts, to youth groups, to neighbors...the possibilities are endless and the well of excitement is overflowing. Let the hunt for learning begin!

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