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What is GPS?

Global positioning system (GPS) technology provides precise data about location, time and speed. GPS is powered by a network of satellites and is used in satellite navigation (satnav) systems. It is also used in some handheld computer devices (PDAs) and mobile phones. These devices receive the information and combine it with maps and photography so you can see the route you are taking.

How GPS is used in school

GPS technology is a valuable addition to teaching and learning about geography. Handheld GPS devices are great tools for field trips. They allow children to:
• explore maps, directions and landscapes in preparation for a trip
• follow and record a route
• locate and record specific points of geographic interest
• make notes and take pictures along the route.

“The children could stop at different intervals along the route and see how high they were above sea level.” Stow Heath Junior School

Back in school, pupils use the information and images stored on the GPS device to review the trip and illustrate their work. 

Benefits of GPS

One of the big benefits is that GPS is built into small, light handheld devices. This makes it much easier to handle than trying to carry maps, clipboards and notebooks, or a laptop and a camera.

GPS can also be used for: 
• mapping projects – using GPS data with mapping software to explore and present a wide range of local issues; for example, planning for a new store or bypass, or exploring changing shopping patterns or the local environment
• mediascapes – linking text, photos, sounds and video to locations on a digital map. Pupils then explore these environments using GPS mobile devices
geocaching – using GPS to track down specific items in a hi-tech ‘treasure hunt’.

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