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PEC's Web Site Review of the Month: June 2008 by Kelly E. Duell

geocaching
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Reviewed Site: Geocaching (http://www.geocaching.com/)

Site Content Area: Geocaching information

Features of the Site:

When you first go to the Geocaching website, it looks like you have landed on a page other than the Home page, mainly because it looks like a Blog rather than a website, and it does have advertising on it. If you look at the left-hand column, you will find their main navigation. There are many sections: getting started, hide & seek a cache, find a benchmark, trackable items, my account, forums, resources, and contact us. Down the middle of the page you can create an account; learn how to use your BlackBerry with geocaching; get a desktop calendar; seek upcoming events; learn how to geocach with your cell phone; and read logs. In the right-hand column you will find a search feature to find a cache in a given location, a link to getting started if you are new, and ads for various products.

It is helpful to learn a little about geocaching before cruising through this site such as, what is Geocaching-an outdoor scavenger hunt using satellites and a handheld GPSr, with the basic idea to hide caches (small containers of treasures) and share the locations (coordinates) of these caches on Geocaching.com. Knowing a few vocabulary words is key to your success, for example, Waypoint (longitude and latitude of cache; coordinates representing points on the surface of the Earth; Groundspeak name of cache); GPSr (Global Positioning System receiver); and Travel Bug, trackable tag that you attach to any item. Of course all this information and more can be found on this website. There is also an excellent PowerPoint that is a great download, �Geocaching In Atlantic Canada� presented by the Atlantic Canada Geocaching Association. This PowerPoint Presentation has a lot of excellent information, which is easy to understand, is written for those of us that are still not bitten by the bug (get the pun?!), and is in a user-friendly format.

Since creating an account is free, it is highly recommended that you do this first. Just follow the instructions, which will only take a few minutes; be sure to complete the email validation portion to activate your account. Once you validate your account, a new page will open with your account details. Spend a little time here setting it up the way you want it and move on.

Getting Started is broken into several sections; the first box is filled with links for those of us who are new to geocaching: Frequently Asked Questions; Guide to finding your first cache; how to create your first cache; and a discussion forum. Below the ad you will find links to six different guides ranging from buying a GPS unit, finding and hiding a cache, guidelines, and glossary. All of these guides were thorough and helpful-worth the read. Resources is the next section, followed by events, and services.

Hide & Seek a Cache opens up tools for finding and hiding caches. You can enter in an address, zipcode, state, country, latitude, longitude, keywords, area codes, waypoint, or found/hidden by a certain user. Once you type in the information and click on search, you�ll see a vast amount of caches available. Scroll down the list, click on the one you are interested in, and read the information for that particular cache. Some have a lot of information, stories, details, history, pictures, maps, and so forth, while others do not have as much. You can download the LOC Waypoint File, or send the information to your GPS or phone.

Find a Benchmark, for those that do not know what this is, can read the description, why it is important to search for benchmarks, and read detailed instructions about hunting, finding, and logging it in. This page is rather lengthy and a tad overwhelming, but if you have the time, it is interesting. One suggestion would be to read this page in sections, or just skim through it on the first visit and go back to it on another visit.

Trackable Items has a box with information about Geocoins, which can be tracked the same as a Travel Bug, along with several links to useful pages. A second box contains information about Travel Bugs, along with corresponding links. The information contained within these inked pages was well-worth the click. There is a lot of information available, which can be too much for those just starting out, so don�t feel pressured to read every page thoroughly; a quick skim is sufficient to get a feel for the site.

The Forums are restricted for the first 24 hours, but after that you can become an active participant. You can read the discussions, but you can�t post until you pass the time requirement. Some of the links appear to lead to the same links as the navigation, but there are many new posts as well.

Resources is just that, resources! There are links to software, wallpaper downloads, and Geocacher U, which is a pretty cool website~you should really check it out when you are finished on this site. There are other links to a variety of other pages and sites: �Hitchhiker� sites, general links, events, and organizations. Most of these links are worthy of a click, but remember to come back to this site!

This feature, Contact Us, is the page which has an actual link that allows you to contact geocahcing.com with your questions, stories, and comments. That is always nice since so often it is extremely difficult to find a way to contact the folks on a given website. I wanted to make a point of mentioning the site, www.geocacher-u.com, which is a link from this site. This site has some great features with a lot of information: Geocaching 101, 201, Resources, Links, etc. This site is worth a look-see and the information is worthy of a read. This reviewer felt the information was helpful and would be useful for anyone, especially those just starting out in geocaching.

The one section that was missing from the site was one for educators. It would be great if there was an entire section dedicated to integrating geocaching into your curriculum, including lesson plans, funding, ideas, and strategies, but since this site does not offer this section, PECentral should! So all of you out there into geocaching or those of you reading this review, all need to submit your lesson ideas to PECentral so we can start our own bank of knowledge!

Conclusion:

Overall, this was the best website found for geocaching information and seems to be not only the biggest, but the one everyone turns to for all their geocaching needs. This reviewer is going to try a few journeys and see what transpires; hope to see you or your Travel Bug somewhere in the World!


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