Technology Education Know-How

Helping Teachers Teach with Technology

Geocaching for the Classroom

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Over the past few weeks I’ve become acquainted and interested in Geocaching.  As always, I’m looking for ways to use Technology, Life Experience and Fun in the classroom.  The more I get involved with Geocaching I see tons of ways it can be used in Math, LA/Writing, Social Studies, Science. This weekend for me was one of PE (Physical Education).  WOW, my legs hurt from the climbing!  I would like us to take a look a few of the ways that Geocaching can be used in each of these subject areas.

Math – With Geocaching students will be using GPS waypoints to find locations. Students can solve a math problem to get the waypoints. Then plug the waypoints into the GPS and find the cache.

Math – Students can use their GPS to calculate speed, distance and plot on a graph. They can answer questions about time, distance, area and speed.  They can then use their information to solve other scenarios without even leaving the classroom.

LA – I’m sure you’ve heard of picture prompts.  What about location prompts!?  Enough said…

LA – Students could create progressive stories.  If you have 4 or 5 groups with a GPS, each group could Geocache to different locations with each group crossing to each Geocache.  Each group will write a new paragraph to the progressive story at each Geocache.  At the end every story should be complete with a beginning,middle, and end.  Each group has written all 3 parts but in different stories.

SS – As a 4th grade teacher I’m a little partial to studying the Indians so my example will for that but can be used for other areas.   You can create waypoints of study.  In studying the Native Americans we would study their shelter, food, tools and regions.  I would create a Geocashe for each one of those topics.  At each stop the students would have to study, read or observe information about those topics and answer questions about each.  I would include pictures, essays, etc so the students could get a good idea of the concepts.  After completing the Shelter Geocashe they would move to the Food cash learning more information.

SS – Students are required to study maps in Social Studies so this is a great way to tie in maps.  They are learning Latitude & Longitude, Coordinates, Cardinal directions.

Science – Each Geocache can contain instructions on completing a Science activity such a building a lever, surveying what object has the most buoyancy, categorizing and then they can create a podcast explaining their findings, experience and results.

Science – You can also have learning stations setup at different Caching locations where the students participate in a learning activity. I remember at certain times of the year we would have our students rotate classes going to each teacher’s room where they would teach a specific related concept like Crust, Core, Mantel, Volcanoes, Landforms, Platelets, etc.   (plants, oxygen, photosynthesis, light, etc.) At the end of the Geocaching experience every student has rotated through each concept either learning new information or review former knowledge.

The ideas of how to use Geocaching are endless.  If your school campus is not big enough to Geocache then a nearby park would be a good location for these experiences.  If you have one of the new cell phones with GPS such as the Palm Pre, Blackberry or iPhone give this a try yourself.  After you’ve done it 2 or 3 times you will find all kinds of ways to use this with your students.  If you would like a listing of the Geocachings around your local area go to put in your zip code and you’ll find lots of them around you.  Each one will have a GPS co-ordinance for you to plug in and then you track it down.  We visited Inks Lake in Central Texas this weekend and did some Geocaching and my 3rd grader and Kindergartner loved it.  Not only that. I was able to give them a real world experience that they can use for prior knowledge in their Writing, Science, Social Studies and Math.

Please leave a comment telling all the ways you have used or are thinking of using Geocaching with your students.

3 Classroom Lessons for Using Gas Prices to Teach Math, Writing, Social Studies, and Technology

Monday, April 28th, 2008

This morning on Yahoo! News another headline reads “Gas.”   Later this morning as the headlines rotated out another one read “Gas.”  Yes, we are facing “Gas” issues like never before.  So, why not turn this into a learning activity for our students.  Our children will face things that we have never faced before, and our job is to prepare them.  So, this Tech Tip will incorporate Math, Writing, Current Events, Maps and Technology.    

The goal here is that we tap into the higher order thinking skills of every student and allow them an opportunity to problem solve a real world event. 

Note: Teachers should not use this to promote any political agenda; you can find yourself in hot water over that.  This is just an exercise for learning.

Note: If you are reading this and are in another city, state or country there are alternative sites that you can use to gather the same data for your location. 

Exercise 1:

This web site  produces a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet with a price history of gas prices by region, state, or even some cities.  From these spreadsheets you can create charts and graphs showing changes, have students calculate differences between time periods and even calculate percentages in change over time. 

You can have your students present his/her findings to the class in a power point, video, printed graphs and a written report. 

            The teacher can discuss issues as they come up.  (No Political Agendas!)

Exercise 2:

Now that students can know the importance of and can physically see from the above presentations that the price of Gas is a real issue, have them do a little problem solving.  Have the students go to  to make an automobile selection based on their newly found information.  Encourage your students to select cars that would be suitable or comparable for their current families.  (ie. If their mom drives a van now have the select a type of van.  If they drive a truck have them select a type of truck.) 

Their goal is to select a vehicle that would save them money as well as suit their needs.  Have them research the different car types, gas mileage, and feasibility.  They can sort the cars by all, compact, convertibles, luxury, passenger, pickups, sport utility, sports, vans and wagons.  (I think I want the Honda Civic, does it have enough room for my kids?)

Have the students report back with their selection.  They should make a presentation of their top 3 choices with a conclusion as to why they selected their top choice.  How will this car impact gas prices?  How much money will they save by getting this car?  Does the price of the car off set the price of gas?

If you want to make this an extra challenge  give them a car price budget and a weekly gas budget.  They should have a select number of miles that they have to calculate to get to and from work(school).

ie: Less than $20,000 for a car.  Weekly gas allotment is $40.  They must drive 20miles one way to work.  You’ll need to give them a list of web sites from local dealers to get the prices on the cars.


Exercise 3:  The Big Challenge

 Using Google Maps or Yahoo! Maps along with  or for those not in the Austin area, to calculate mileage to determine if it would be worth it to drive out of your way to the cheapest gas prices locations. 

Students will need to know:

1.      gas mileage of car (from exercise 2)

2.      price of gas (exercise 3 links)

3.      mileage to lowest priced gas station (Google Maps or Yahoo! Maps)

4.      price of gas at the gas station near your school (you’ll need to provide this)

5.      location (mileage and map) of home and school (work) (Google Maps or Yahoo! Maps)

Have the students report as to whether or not it’s worth the extra drive.  Will they save money or not?


As always, these activities can be extended, shortened or changed.  You are only limited by your imagination as to how this can be used in your classroom.  For higher grade levels you can turn them loose with the idea and see what they come up with.  I think we would all be shocked! 

My generation kinda grew up not being very concerned with the environment or economy at all, but today’s generation seems to be more involved with trying to solve issues than we ever where. 

If you use these ideas leave a comment and let me know how it went, or if you have other ideas please share!



Tracking of the Torch for Education

Monday, April 14th, 2008

One of the things that makes Google Earth so fantastic for Education is it’s popularity.  People are always putting new features into Google Earth that help teaching more fun and authentic for our students.

The newest feature I want to mention is the Map Tracking the Olympic Torch.  You’ll be able to see pictures of prominent places around the world as you track the torch.  I’m sure your students would find this interesting. 

To use in your Google earth follow the link above and thin click the blue link below the map that says, “Track the Torch in Google Earth.”


Extend the Learning Ideas:

Social Studies:

* If you are teaching maps, Google earth provides the coordinances that you can use to teach latitude and longitude.  

* Students can learn about other cultures.  Do you have any students that are from the cities that the torch will be visiting?  Today the torch is in the city of Muscat.  According the information found in Google Earth Muscat is the capital and largest city of the Sultanate of Oman.  The pictures of the other cultures are phenomenal that you’ll find as you track the torch.


* You can use the maps and calculate the distance that the torch has traveled and will travel. 


* You could have your students write about their favorite Olympic events, countries that will be participating in the Olympics, or even differences that they find between cultures. 


The integration possibilities are endless as you open your minds to this great tool!  Leave a comment letting me and others know how you used the Tracking of the Torch for Education! 

Google’s History Video Archives

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

This weeks Tech Tip is for the Social Studies Teacher.  You will find that Google has partnered with the NARA to digitize 104 films of history.  You will find them on the Google page

I took a look at one of the news reels from D-Day and it was amazing looking at this time in history as it happened.Teachers can use this public domain data by allowing students to view the content as it was in history.  How powerful could this be?! 

You will find clips from NASA, War News Reels, and the Department of Interior.  The Department of Interior video about the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1936 was awesome!  I loved seeing the old machinery working as I gained a new appreciation for the advancement of Technology today. 

I think you will find this a great tool for teaching history and giving students an opportunity to view history through the eyes of the people that lived it.  

Note: I do advise; preview each clip before you show it to your students.  Some things just shouldn’t be seen by certain age groups. 

Visual Geography

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008
Weekly Tech Tip
This weeks tech tip is can be used in Social Studies, LA, and Math.
The site is
Social Studies: has pictures of interesting things from most if not all countries of the world.  Such as this dish from the country of Haiti, in North America. haiti food
 Students can learn about other cultures by studying the pictures and notes that are on the page.  Each countries map and flag is shown as well. 
Would you have ever guessed that this picture Ethiopia
could have been taken on the continent of Africa in the country of Ethiopia.  How awesome is that!!  I know I need to get out more.  But I can’t, and neither can many of our students.  That’s why this type of thing is so important.
I would have my students write compare contrast papers, express their surprise at commonalities, or even use the pictures as writing prompts.  The writing assignments are endless when you begin to look at these pictures from around the world. 
The site even gives statistics about each country.  The students can do calculations comparing the countries, and charts showing different data.  When I compared the US to Brazil I didn’t know how much alike in size we are. 
U.S.A. is 1.1 times bigger than Brazil
U.S.A. has 1.6 times more inhabitants than BrazilU.S.A.Size: 9,631,418 sq km
Population: 298,444,215 inhabitantsBrazilSize: 8,511,965 sq km
Population: 188,078,227 inhabitants 
I’m learning lots from this site and I’m sure your students can also!  Leave a post and let me know how you use this in your classroom.  Enjoy your Technology!