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The Fabulous GPS: Always Calm, Willing, and Right

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
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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!

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Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

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Jason's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

First time blogger but love the GPS. I use them in my P.E. classes. We do an outdoor adventure and have races through the woods finding geocaches set up by me and the other students. We are going to the county park next week for a field trip where we will shoot archery, geocache, rock climb etc. I just purchased the rino 110 and 120 for their 2 way radio capabilities. They are a lot of fun!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I envy your GPS experience. I am a google MapQuest maniac because I have absolutely no sense of direction. I swear that it's gadget in a gadget that I am particularly fond of is texting. I hate cutting off conversations with people because my phone is ringing (so I always have it on silent and will text people back promptly). It's a good way to cut down cell phone bills! I'll have to get a GPS system when I'm done with grad-school and have some extra cash. :)

kickinbaby's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

It's funny...there's a commercial out with the driver telling his GPS that he loves "her" and when she "responds" by giving him the next direction, his reaction is "yeah, you're probably right, we'll keep it platonic (paraphrased!)." It's pretty funny, but true. Once you get hooked with these little gadgets, they're hard to get away from! They're great for hiking too!

Ed Gorny's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Great article and yes GPS needs to be taught to students and adults. We teach GPS and GIS to educators in the midwest with a lot of success as well as fun in learning it. My team is all teachers in real life and we developed this staff development because we see it coming. We run two web sites: which are GPS projects in ILL and which covers GPS and GIS.

For any educator that wants to purchase GPS units, Garmin set us up with a dealer who extends a 30% discount to schools and groups. Just email me and I will give you the contact info.


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