Rural teachers find GPS hits the spot

Rurals schools took a leap into the future recently when 21 of their teachers from around the country met to learn how to use GPS and GIS systems.

Rurals schools took a leap into the future recently when 21 of their teachers from around the country met to learn how to use global positioning systems (GPS) and geographic information systems (GIS). According to DNR Online, the teachers met at James Madison University as part of a new program of the National Center for Rural Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Outreach, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Education, to learn how to use and incorporate GPS and GIS devices into their curriculum.

"You guys will be GPS junkies before we’re done," said Dr. Bob Kolvoord, professor of integrated science and technology at JMU and director of the program.

During the 10-day workshops, the teachers took courses in how to use the computerized mapping system and received a hand-held GPS device to use during the workshop and take back to their schools, free of charge, said Kolvoord.

"You can basically use it in any subject area. They are showing us how to integrate it into the curriculum, take stuff you are already teaching and enhance it," said Kim Groleau, an eighth-grade science teacher from Escanaba, Mich.

The Center offered eight workshops to show teachers how to use the technology. It also loans out the devices to local school systems for use in classes. Lessons using the mapping systems are also available on the Web, so teachers around the country can access them.

"Technology bursts like a wave," he said. "It’s important to keep up and get ahead," commented Kolvoord.

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