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A weblog designed to share Geography resources with students and colleagues

Sunday, November 07, 2010

A cache, a code and a crowd to place it

Categories: s1 and s2, Other, Geography General

This is an idea, or bits of ideas I've had floating around my head lately. Will probably refine it as I develop it, but here's the bones of it anyway. I have recently been sucked into the world of geocaching, which, if my profession is taken into account, shouldn't really be that surprising. I love the adventure involved in visiting places that are either new to me, or are so familiar that I have never given them more than a cursory glance. I would say it's given me a totally different view of my own local area in a very short time.
I also have a long standing interest in developing literacy in my students. I have always been a reader and an admirer of the power of the written word, but my understanding of literacy has been turned on its head in the last year and a half, mainly through my involvement in the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy (SSLN). An expression of literacy skills can mean so much more than writing a story (although I can't hide my pride in students when they produce work like this).
Finally, I've blogged recently about QR codes and am very intrigued in the ability to hide a lot of information in a small square of paper. So, how does this all link together? Well, here's the idea...
I've been thinking a lot about personal/local geographies lately. I work in Troon and am not local to that area. I hear people in my classes talking about places and have no clue where or what they are. This became more apparent to me as we collated a map of Troon/School stories for our 75th anniversary open day on Friday (this is still being added to and some parts have yet to be updated by students, although I've temporarily locked the edits). I realise that there is so much more to a place than meets the eye. It got me wondering what parts of Troon students would like people to see in their town that they otherwise might not. Everyone knows about the golf, the beach, the harbour etc, but what is 'hidden' from the average visitor? For this end, I'm going to ask a couple of classes in the next couple of weeks for their 'vote' and why as a blog comment. This will mean there's a collective response which might also spark some discussion. This is going somewhere...
Today, I purchased a load of geocaching goodies, including containers. Most of these are for use within easy reach of home (as the owner, I'll also be responsible for their maintenance). However, I'm planning on putting one, with permission, at the most popular 'hidden' location. If you like, I'm crowd sourcing my geocache. I won't tell students it's exact location, but I'm planning on sticking a little QR code inside the cache, so that whoever finds it will also see the blog responses of the students, leading to potentially exploring some of the other suggestions - an alternative Troon tourist route. We could even do this as a map with the comments in the pins.
There are some factors to consider. Although it would be nice to have students names beside the comment, this is very open and the cache could be found by anyone, so I will probably just use initials to satisfy my urge as the teacher to know who's done the homework :-) I'll also be asking students to think carefully about both the comments (digital etiqutte etc) and also the location. Managing risk here is at the forefront of my thoughts and I would want to place the cache in a safe environment, especially if students were looking for it themselves. I do think it gives an opportunity for the words and work of students to gain an audience other than the classroom teacher. I would hope that this would have an impact on what and how students write. I also think that the people who find the cache couldn't get a better tour guide. The kind of places I'm finding while geocaching near home are the kind I would have known inside out when I was a kid. Part of us forgets about the experiences that await us right on our doorstep as life and work take over. If it takes a semi-geeky game to remind us, then we're all the better for it.


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