Basic Navigation

I had to laugh last week when I saw a news item on television. The story was about school program that takes kids outside to learn some skills. I went to a similar program when I was a child; it was referred to as Outdoor Education back then and it was a great a program. I am all for programs that take learning outside of the classroom.

The funny part of the news story was the interview. I can’t remember exactly who it was on camera but what he said really stuck with me. He praised the program and all the things it did for the children. He then said, “They’re learning basic navigation with a GPS.”


I laughed out loud (which doesn’t normally happen during the news.)

I’m not that old but when I learned basic navigation it was with a map and compass. I learned about the stars and how I could use them as a guide. I learned how to make a crude compass using the hands on my wristwatch, and failing that, how to make one using a stick to cast a shadow. That’s basic navigation. We didn’t have a portable computer to tell us where we were all the time. We didn’t have satellites to communicate with, and we did just fine.

It was really funny to hear this new definition of “basic navigation.” I wonder what people would do if they had to go back to reading maps, compasses, and the stars. Perhaps everyone would be lost all the time.

It seems like people are so starved for new technology that they forget the simple things in life. And it’s amazing that these devices have fallen in price so much that they are now readily available and accessible. But do we really need to alter our definition of “basic” now? I think not.

4 responses to “Basic Navigation”

  1. Oh my gosh, Chase,

    That is wild.

    But should we be so surprised? Kids now use calculators in school and if you ask a lot of them what 9×8 is, they need to turn to their calculator. And that is BASIC math.

    Makes you wonder what’s next.

  2. Hi Barbara,

    That is precisely the reason that I don’t allow my students to use calculators. I expect them to learn the times tables by heart. I model this by creating questions on the board using any numbers they shout out. I then give them a specific amount of time to do them and take them up very quickly on the board. I show them how quick they can do the work.

    Of course, most students just say that I’m an adult and that’s why I can do it fast. A lot of them don’t take the time to learn the math facts by heart. I do supply times table charts for those who need them. After consulting a chart a hundred times, kids do seem to learn some of the math facts. It’s not perfect but it works.

  3. I say kudos to you Chase for doing that. It’s so important for kids to learn basic math, but yet some teachers would rather let them use calculators than to deal with them straining to learn.

  4. I also find some teachers are afraid of math. They don’t have confidence in math and are a bit afraid to teach it. They then pass on this fear to their students.

    I think the key to teaching is confidence. You need to know your subject and lesson well.

    Unfortunately a lot of people are uncomfortable with math. But we shouldn’t be. Teachers that are should go to workshops to improve and get some more self-cofidence in math. This will help the students, trust me.