Thursday, March 18, 2010

Geocaching with an iPhone

Do you or your students carry iPhones or iTouches? Probably, since the word on the street is that 25% or more of the country's middle school kids carry one. If you are an avid geocacher, or still a muggle but interested in learning, read on to learn about this fun, outdoor activity!

Geocaching is a high-tech scavenger hunt that uses coordinates to navigate to a hidden treasure, or geocache. Before iPhones, a geocacher needed to purchase a GPS receiver in order to geocache. Now, you can download one of many apps to your iPhone and go on your first hunt. There area couple geocaching apps out there, but I like the Geocaching App from Groundspeak. The app does cost a few dollars, but it's a lot less than buying an expensive GPS. Once you have downloaded the app and registered on for your free membership, you are ready to go!

The app itself is self-explanatory. In order to find nearby caches, you will have to allow it to use your current location. This is how I find most of my caches--I just go to a park and tell my app to "Find Nearby Geocaches" and up comes a list of all the caches, from the closest on out.

You will then choose from the list which geocache you want to find, and a page with all the "specs" for that cache will come up. It will tell you how far the cache is, and give a description and hints to finding the cache. When you are ready to find your treasure, just hit "Navigate to Cache" and a map like the one below will come up.
The balloon is the cache while the blue dot is you and the line of arrows is the path you will take to find the cache. If you hit the road button underneath the "View Compass" button, you can choose the type of map you prefer to use.
This app is nice because it connects directly to the website, meaning you will have access to thousands of caches all over the world. You can add specific caches to your favorites list, make field notes while caching, and look up a hint if you are having trouble finding a cache. There's even a compass setting to help you get your bearings if you are caching in an unfamiliar place. All in all, a very useful tool for a very fun activity. Happy Geocaching!!

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