Getting outside can open up great opportunities to use technology, with geocaching one such popular activity. The technology embedded within modern smart phones now allows for more creative geocaching opportunities, with one notable app, XNote, proving to be a great success with pupils. Fredrik Alstorp explores how Xnote can help learning, with examples from Sweden and London in how they are using the app with students.
This article was first published in the UKEdMagazine in May 2014. Click here to view the full story (free).
Geocaching has slowly become a staple of outdoor education in recent years and it is a modern take on a treasure hunt. Geocachers use GPS-enabled devices to find real physical caches—objects, tokens or clues—hidden around the landscape. Xnote can be described as a virtual take on geocaching. It’s a tool that allows students go on simple scavenger hunts outdoors and use their smartphones to look for virtual messages hidden by their teachers.
The app is well suited for creating engaging outdoor lectures since the hidden messages can contain practical assignments at each location. These activities can be created quickly from anywhere in a way similar to sending text messages. While this is a great way to use technology to excite students and provide structure to outdoor lectures in authentic situations out of the classroom, it is only by empowering teachers to create their own pedagogical content that the true educational value is reached.
Knowledge becomes meaningful and easier to remember when multiple senses are involved and learning is enhanced through the interplay between physical experience, social interaction and personal reflection. When creating assignments to hide with Xnote is is important to leave room for creativity, collaboration and reflection while involving features specific to the place of learning.
Students do not need an app to search for messages, they just follow a link in the web browser of their smartphone.
Examples of tasks that can be hidden:
- How can you use your length and your shadow to calculate the height of the water tower in front of you?
- What factors affect the flow of water in the stream? Create a practical experiment to illustrate the formula Speed = Distance / Time. Document your experiment with a video clip.
- Take five pictures from the stream and it’s surroundings and capture the following words: strength, beauty, action, history and decay. What does the stream sound like in winter?
Inger Fuchs at West Ramlösa School in Sweden is heading a research project together with the National Centre for Outdoor Education and Linköping University investigating how technology in smartphones and tablets can help us learn at different locations:
“We have created multiple Xnote tours with themes ranging from health and the human body to history and local public art and the kids just love it.
I highly recommend this type of outdoor education where the place of learning is moved out into the natural scene. There are so many possibilities…”
David Carpenter, an Economics Teacher in south London, shares his thoughts about Xnote:
Xnote is effectively a ‘treasure hunt’ app, bringing geocaching into the 21st century by making use of the GPS built into most smartphones and the excellent satellite imagery of Google Maps. However, what attracted me to it’s educational potential was the option to create a location based multiple-choice quiz.
There are plans for an Android app, but in the meantime Xnote for iPad / iPhone is available from the Apple App Store currently priced at £1.99 – Click icon below to view in the app store: