GPS Technology in the Classroom (LESSON SETUP)

Well as I stated in my last post, I was looking to create a hands on lesson that would get students up and moving in the week before Christmas break, since they are so wound up anyway. So this was my plan.  It seemed to have worked very well with my 8th grade students. I will post again once I get the results of my survey from the kids completed.

Lesson Learning Target:

Identify and explain at least two reasons why the United States entered into WWI.

Set Up:

This lesson required them to move to five different locations throughout the school. To locate each of these locations they had to solve clues left for them at each location. As they solved each clue, they were required to answer the question, “How does this impact the U.S. involvement in WWI?”  Their goal was to write a memo that will convince the President to enter into WWI. This memo must include at least two facts that they discover on their quest. Each student is provided with an organizer handout and a copy of the blank memo they will turn in at the end of the lesson. I set this lesson up to last about 2-3 days.

Students started in the computer lab, and I gave them their first clue. This took them into the library and they found a biography of Woodrow Wilson. Students learned about the President of the United States at the time of WWI. Here they also received some GPS coordinates that sent them out on to the football field.

At the second location on the football field they receive a cipher key. This allowed them to decipher future clues that they were to find on this quest. The first thing that they deciphered was grid coordinates to another location.

The third location provided a clue that sent them back into the computer lab to research and find clue number four. Here the students learned about public opinion in WWI and Executive Order 2594. They began to see that public opinion on the war had to change, before the U.S. could enter WWI. Finally, they received another clue hidden in this room.

The fourth location provided the students with a clue to the final location and dates of the sinking of the Lusitania and Sussex. Here students were informed about the importance of these events on the American public opinion.

The final location provided the students with the Zimmerman letter that they need to decipher key elements of the letter to ascertain why this letter was so important in our entrance into WWI.


Once they have completed the quest, they had to sit down as a group and figure out how everything was connected. This led to some very good conversations among the students. Even students that typically aren’t engaged participated. I was encouraged by the level of engagement by all students. I do realize that the novelty of this new type of assignment was part of the engagement, but students seemed genuinely interested in the lesson. The conversation that I heard and the group dynamics seemed to work effectively. Students seemed to enjoy themselves. I even had to plead with some kids to move on to their next class. I anxiously await their memos and the survey results.

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6 Responses

  1. This sounds like a great activity! I teach K-12 computers and do activities with GPS units for a couple weeks each year. I’m always looking for new ideas. I was wondering if you have them all go as a group to locate the different clues, or if you have them find the clues in a different order so they are not all arriving at the same time to the same clue.

    • Since each person in the group meets a different virtual character they can all go to each location together since the idea is to get them to discuss with each other in the group or with other students. I have done it both ways and the main issue was management. By having all of the students at each location and somewhat together it was easier for me to fix any technical problems and answer questions that students had. Other wise I was constantly running all over the place trying to keep things moving.

  2. Thanks for the kind words can link the lesson plan if you are interested.

    • I would love the lesson plan for that, it seems that so many students would enjoy an activity like this. Thank you very much

      • Motivation among the students was very high. I even had to plead with some students to quit and go to their next class.

  3. I think that is one of the most innovative ideas that I have ever heard of. I wish I had my teachers in school think of something like that, let alone just something different than note taking all day. I truly believe that the students must have had a blast with this assignment. Heck, even I would at this point in my life. You created a learning environment that allowed the students to think on a deeper level and allow movement between them. Those two things you do not see on a regular basis in the classrooms at my school and would love to hear of more ideas that you have used recently that have turned out to be successful.

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