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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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The Fabulous GPS: Always Calm, Willing, and Right

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

I recently bought a Garmin nüvi 360, one of those global-positioning-system (GPS) devices for your car that plots the best route to your destination and then vocally guides you along. It's really an amazing device, and one of many that has the ability to get you where you want to go no matter where you start. Add Bluetooth capabilities to this device so that your phone is fully hands free, and you're really doing great.

Already the proud owner of a handheld GPS I use with teachers and kids across the country, I had not really considered such a purchase until this summer when I rented a car with a nüvi 360 installed. My flight had arrived late, and I faced a 95-mile drive over two-lane roads. Once I learned to trust the GPS in the rental car, however, I was hooked: I arrived at my destination at 12:45 A.M. safely and calmly, having spent the drive thinking about the next day's work instead of holding a map on the steering wheel and turning the overhead light on and off in a stressful effort to get there.

My wife has been known to mock the steady voice of the GPS narrator from time to time, suggesting that though the voice may be calmly saying "Recalculating" when I miss a turn and a new route has to be built on the fly, it is really thinking, "You moron! I make it crystal clear, and you still mess it up!" My wife may be right, but all I hear is the narrator's calm, steady, and incredibly competent comment of "Recalculating," followed by perfect directions.

I have to admit that I'm starting to think my GPS has a personality, like that navigator we'd like to find in a friend or colleague, or -- and I know this may be stretching it -- a spouse. Imagine being married to a person who, even on a major metropolitan eight-lane divided highway in rush-hour holiday traffic, calmly gives you destination-guaranteed directions, announces every turn in advance, steadily warns you as the ramp approaches, and finally (gently) tells you, at just the right moment, to bear right. And not only that, this "wonder spouse"" constantly updates your time of arrival. Benefit: No surprises when you pull up to the in-laws' house a half-hour late for dinner.

How about you? Are your technical gadgets, digital tools, or software programs becoming your best friends? Don't be shy -- we're all getting attached to these machines, so open up and tell us about it!

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
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