Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Geo-caching in the Spanish classroom


After sharing and learning from a UF Ed Tech program colleague and friend, I have witnessed through discussions, videos, blog and a wiki how successful an experience can be using GPS in the classroom, with students as young as 2nd graders. Anna Baralt uses geo-caching with various levels of students to utilize cross-curricular learning in integration of reading, writing, math, science, social studies and geography. Geo-caching enables students to develop the 21st Century Learning skills of inquiry and problem-solving. Specifically “students take ownership for their learning; use real world data to encourage high order thinking skills; collaborate and cooperate when working with a team; increase their understanding of mapping systems, as well as the principles of direction, distance, and location; construct their own knowledge and share it with others; and make decisions. (Baralt 2009.)”

Many classroom ideas are described on Anna’s related blog and wiki, which makes it very helpful for educators like me looking for lesson plans. The particular project called Geocaching – Integrating Math & Social Studies revolved around “money” and piqued my interest. The directives included that an educator “scan or find photos of currency from around the world and then place the currency in caches. Once students find the caches, they return to the classroom to identify the currencies and find the exchange rate for each currency in US dollars using an online currency converter (Baralt 2009.)”

Even though Anna was able to acquire 10 GPS receivers through grant funding, I aim to rent or borrow similar GPS receivers for a similar proposed project of my own. [Another option is Groundspeak's Geocaching Application which is best supported by the iPhone 3G or 3GS, but is also compatible with the iPod Touch and 1st generation iPhones (wi-fi dependent) and an upcoming version for the Android in Spring 2010.] I intend to use authentic currency I have collected during my travels to Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica and Peru to use in caches I would hide around our school campus. I would have the student groups (of 2-4 persons) take digital photos of the currency (as to not remove the caches); go to the computer lab to aid in identifying the currency; find the exchange rate for that currency in US dollars; add up the currency to find out which group had the most valuable amount; graph their findings on a graph on the class community wiki; and finally write about the significance of the images on each currency in how it relates to that country’s culture and history. All information compiled will be written entirely in Spanish and shared on the class wiki.

Ultimately, this project will result in the students strengthening their language production skills. Performing an activity beyond the traditional classroom walls and different than plain lecture or worksheets can play an important role in influencing student achievement. By providing students with atypical and enriching learning activities such as this, students should develop collaboration and higher-order thinking skills, a significant benefit for today’s learner. In my experience, the teenagers benefit from learning a foreign language especially when it is meaningful, authentic, and integrated in other curriculum.

With regards to students in disadvantaged environments, if the educator were able to obtain the technology tools (perhaps with grant funding or simply borrowing the tools), the students would greatly benefit from the “exciting, empowering, exploratory environments that focus on student engagement in the learning process (Christie 2007.)” These students would apply problem-solving strategies in their learning, collaborating, and communication with geo-caching. Students who typically may be subjected to passive learning in their classrooms would have the chance to participate in “active, exploratory and inquiry-based learning (ISTE).” If applied, continuous educational gains would surely be achieved by these students.

Current references:

Baralt, A. (2009). Using GPS blog. Retrieved from website at http://usinggps.wikispaces.com/Resources

Christie, A. (2007). Using GPS and Geocaching Engages, Empowers, and Enlightens Middle School Teachers and Students. Retrieved from website at http://alicechristie.org/pubs/E6/index.html

ISTE. (n.d.). National Education Technology Standards. Retrieved from website at http://www.iste.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=NETS

el 16 de abril de 2.010
BI: Español B – Nivel Estándar, Segundo Año

Jackie y Agnes son las primeras en encontrar los tesoros.

Jessica busca la caja-cache debajo del banco.

Finalmente Marina encontró la caja-cache detrás de la Máquina de Refrescos.

En la biblioteca, Agnes quiere conocer la tasa de cambio de las diferentes monedas del mundo.

¿Cuánto dinero conseguiste, JR? Si él tuviera un millón de dólares, compraría un coche-Lotus.

1 comment:

  1. I love the photos of your students! It looks like they are having an incredible time geocaching. I am impressed how you used this activity to strengthen communication with your Spanish speakers. Is there anything you would change about this activity?