Technology has never been a strength for me, and I got anxious when the new professional competencies were outlined in 2015 and technology became a new focus. I’m opening up about this hoping some people may have been in the same position (and hence, are reading this blog). For me, I had never thought about integrating my hobbies with my assistantship at the University Activities Board at Michigan State. For me, I had never looked at geocaching as a technological activity.
Define: geocaching | ‘jëö ,kSHiNG
the recreational activity of hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates posted on a website [or application].
Geocaching has been around as long as the Global Positioning System (GPS). For a while, geocaching was an activity only accessible to those with a personal GPS and hiking gear. The digital age has brought GPS technology and geocaching capabilities from an expensive forest hobby to a nearly ubiquitous treasure hunt.
There are different types of geocaches (the hidden physical objects, often called “caches” for short) with varying degrees of difficulty. Some are large and in secluded forests, others are no bigger than a bolt and are hiding in a downtown intersection. Some have puzzles that need to be completed or require an extreme attention to detail before their true location can be known, while others can be fairly straightforward.
The same geocaches are accessible via a number of apps:
- Geocaching Classic (costs around $9) (My pick!)
There are multiple ways in which geocaching can assist in higher education settings today. Geocaches are largely available worldwide, and your campus should have a few on campus or nearby. Recently, in my position at the University Activities Board at Michigan State, geocaching was used as a way to assist team-building and problem solving development for a group of newly selected student leaders.
At the University Activities Board, we were hoping to have a team builder that would dig a little bit deeper into personalities than what we had traditionally done. We pre-picked the geocaches we were looking to use and made some of our own clues to assist the students, as these were their first caches. The clues on the apps often have multiple interpretations, and for us, this opened the floor to diverging opinions, allowing newly forming groups to begin understanding each others thinking and reasoning processes. In many ways, this also allowed us as professionals and para-professionals to begin comprehending the thought processes of our new student leaders.
CAS Domain: humanitarianism and civic engagement.
Dimensions: understanding and appreciation of cultural and human differences, social responsibility, global perspective, and sense of civic responsibility
In a previous job, a form of geocaching was used as a way to transitioning in student leaders to a leadership opportunity that involved significant relationship building with municipal bureaucrats and politicians. To assist students in their appreciation of their civic surroundings, the students had to find several geocaches in the city that traditionally were beyond the student bubble. We hoped this would be the beginning of the humanitarianism and civic engagement CAS domain, allowing the students to be more aware of opportunities in the city, and adding to the base of knowledge about the city, so that the students could hold their own in a conversation about the city in which they were garnering their education.
– You will likely need to pre-find the geocaches where you plan on sending students, to make sure it is still in position. This will also help if they need additional hints, and can help you figure out how long the activity will take
– Half an hour is not enough time to geocache. In order to achieve maximum team building and civic awareness, schedule this for at least two hours.
– Not all apps will allow you to see all details about all caches without purchasing an upgraded version of the app. This can make planning more difficult, especially when students are trying to use their own phones to find the caches. Plan to give the students a phone to use for maximum finding capabilities.
This post is part of our #App2Campus series, which aims to share ideas for using mobile to drive student engagement on campus. We will hear from all kinds of #SApros who have used phone technology to foster a sense of community and connection between the students, face to face. For more information, please see Sabina’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series.