As I mentioned in an earlier post, this weekend I had the opportunity to attend the CLMS/CLHS Technology Conference in Monterey. Unfortunately, the wireless Internet was absolutely horrible and I was unable to live blog. Initially, I thought this week I would be posting thoughts, reflections, and innovative ideas I took away from the conference. It just dawned on me that its already Wednesday and I’ve had zero time to post! Better get cracking! I thought I’d start off with geocaching since when I got home Sunday night it was the first thing I did. Yes, geocaching…
Now, I was hardly a geocaching newbie before I left for Monterey. After all, I’m friends with Burt Lo who’s picture in my iPhone contact directory is a license plate I once walked past that said GEOCACH. I have a GPS unit and I even have an account on Geocaching.com. So what changed this trip? Well, I discovered the Geocaching.com applicaiton for the iPhone3G. This piece of software uses the iPhone’s GPS and data connections to pinpoint your exact location and pulldown nearby hidden caches from Geocaching.com. All you have to do is select a cache and press navigate and your iPhone will take you with in 30-50 feet of the hidden treasure. Granted, a traditional GPS unit will take you closer (probably 10-30 feet depending on the model), but I’ve found the iPhone is good enough for most hunting. On top of that if you want to geocache on the fly you have everything you need in you hands. Before using the iPhone Geocaching application I had to log onto my computer, find a nearby cache on the Geocaching.com website, and type the coordinates into my GPS unit. That’s a whole lot more planning than I’m often able to accomplish. On Sunday afternoon I started off to a quick walk around the neighborhood and then thought there might be a nearby cache. Sure enough, after a few quick clicks I found one just half a mile from my house.
While geocaching is definitely a fun personal persuit, this weekend’s confernce also demonstrated it can be a fanstastic educational tool as well. Diane Main had a great session on the 3 G’s (geocaching, Google Earth, and GPS). Check out her site – you’ll see tons of great ideas. I like the ideas of Educaching (hiding things on campus) to teach kids orienteering skills, along with virutal caches at historical landmarks. As a science teacher the one that intriqued me the most was her idea of hiding caches around her community with thermometers and hydometers inside of them. These caches would be posted on Geocaching.com and when real-world geocachers found them one of their jobs would be to record the current date, time, temperature, and humidity. This informatoin would be reported back on the Geocaching site or in a collaborative Google Spreadsheet when the person posted their find. Its a great way for her students to have a set of real data.
If you have a 3G iPhone I highly suggest giving the Geocaching applicaition a look. Its a fun, easy, and realtively inexpensive ($9.99) method for checking out geocaching. I must give you a warning though, its highly addicitive. Next thing you know you will probably be looking for a grant to purchase a class set of GPS units.