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Constructivist Learning: A Workshop for Teachers



This workshop has three overarching goals: (1) learn how to use GPS receivers, (2) learn to geocache, gather real-world data, and problem-solve authentic and personally meaningful challenges or inconsistencies, and (3) explore new ideas in any curricular area relevant to professional development or K-12 education.


Participating in a geocache activity helps learners understand the features and capability of GPS receivers. Through a hands-on workshop, teachers learn how to use GPS units, digital data, and online resources that support these technologies. By gathering and using authentic data, workshop participants (1) engage in the scientific process, (2) problem solve as needed to explore the options on their GPS units and find their geocaches, (3) collaborate with other learners to explore and explain the world around them, and (4) exhibit how these new technologies can be used effectively in their own classrooms. Finally, learners explore a new knowledge realm relevant to their own professional development or their K-12 curriculum. All workshops use a learn-by-doing, constructivist approach to ensure that participants are actively engaged, challenged to learn and integrate new concepts, working collaboratively with other participants, learning from their mistakes, and applying their new understandings/skills to their own teaching/learning situations.


Purpose and Goals


Upon completion of GPS/Geocaching Workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the GPS coordinate system
  • Understand the GPS keypad
  • Increase understanding of mapping systems
  • Increase understanding of mathematical principles of angles, distances, triangulation, and direction
  • Use GPS units to navigate to a specified location
  • Understand the concept of direction and distance as represented on GPS units
  • Understand the principles of geocaching
  • Plan and implement curricular units that utilize GPS units and geocaching
  • Use GPS units to locate caches hidden on or near the workshop locale
  • Use GoogleEarth™ to provide data about locations of geocaches locally and globally
  • Conduct field work by collecting authentic data
  • Use real-world data to encourage higher order thinking skills in K-12 or university students
  • Problem solve when GPS units provide conflicting or confusing data
  • Problem solve when geocaches are not readily found

Time Frame


Three hours: one 3-hour session, or two 1.5-hour sessions

  • Workshop Overview and Goals – 5 minutes
  • Forming Teams and Assigning Roles – 10 minutes
  • Exploring GPS Units – 15 minutes
  • Geocaching – 45 minutes
  • Discussing the GPS Exploration and Geocaching Experience - 15 minutes
  • Discussing the Geocache Contents - 30 minutes
  • Discussing Best Practices for GPS and Geocaching - 30 minutes
  • Reviewing Online Resources – 15 minutes
  • Applying New Skills to Individual Professional Responsibilities – 15 minutes

Prerequisite Skills

  • Basic computer skills
  • Openness to exploration

Materials Required

The workshop leader provides the following materials:

  • GPS Receivers
  • Geocaches (usually small, waterproof plastic box containing clues that help participants understand new concepts in any curricular area)
  • Examples of curricular units and lessons plans that use GPS units and geocaching
  • An extensive Web site of online resources on using GPS receivers and geocaching



No external, multiple-choice test is needed to assess student success. Instead, evidence of student success comes through observation. The workshop leader continually monitors whether students are learning new concepts and skills based upon participants’ behaviors using the GPS units while searching for geocaches. The workshop leader adjusts her instructional techniques, pace of instruction, and need for individualized instruction based on these observations. Further evidence of student success will be participants’ level of interest in using GPS units and geocaching in their own classrooms, their professional development, and their personal lives at the conclusion of the workshop.


Workshop Description


During this session, participants will work in teams to complete an engaging and interactive geocaching activity in an outdoor location. They will use GPS units to locate hidden caches that provide clues to the central principles of constructivist learning. After discussing what they have learned from this problem-based activity, they will discuss ways that constructivist learning environments can help create active, reflective, student-centered learning that is socially relevant and personally meaningful to learners. This workshop is extended by the facilitator’s Web site.


Description of Geocache Contents


Cache Team Constructivist Principles Cache Contents
Learning takes time Tortoise, hare, watch, hourglass
Learning incorporates prior knowledge Building blocks
Learning uses multiple intelligences Representation of each(guitar for musical)
Learning is a process requiring tools/scaffolding Tools, light bulb
Learning is global Globe, circular bracelet, 4-port hub
We learn through our mistakes Eraser, bumpy ball, white-out
Learning is social and interactive Helping Hands earrings, silly putty
Learning embraces many perspectives Box of crayons
We learn through discovery/problem solving Flashing ball, blocks, handheld puzzle
Learning is collaborative Glue, button with three people holding hands
Learning is hands-on Hand, glove
Learning is reflective Loon reflection, crystal


Roles for Team Members


Team Member A - Recorder - Records search process and discussion
Team Member B - Reporter - Reports on search process and discussion
Team Member C - Monitor - Monitors times and turns with GPS units
Team Member D - Photographer -Photographs group in action (inside and outside)


Topics for Discussion


Since the role of the teacher in constructivist learning environments is that of coach or facilitator, it is important that the teacher engage in extensive planning of this hands-on learning activity. Gathering meaningful and representative items to serve as “clues” that will stimulate thinking and discussion among students is vitally important to the success of this workshop. Two idea webs, Web 1 and Web 2, created with Inspiration™ 8.0, show what the students found in each cache (circled in red) and ideas students generated about constructivist learning after discussing each of the “clues” found in the twelve geocaches.


Another group of participants created an idea web (also created with Inspiration™ 8.0), entitled What We Learned About GPSs and Geocaching.Iinterestingly, it does not comment on any specifics of using GPS technology; instead, it focused on the learning process, zeroing in on five areas participants found most important: collaboration, sense of excitement and engagement, mistakes, discovery learning, and teacher considerations.