A geocaching app makes it easy for those with mobile devices to participate in activities. (Image from geocaching.com)

Gone are the days of traditional school pen pals and classrooms mailing packages back and forth—today’s students and teachers are using ed-tech to have virtual conversations with classrooms across their states and throughout the nation using a phenomenon known as geoconferencing.

Geoconferencing marries two well-known concepts: video conferencing and geocaching—an outdoor scavenger hunt in which students use GPS devices and mobile devices to travel to specific coordinates in order to locate hidden items known as travel bugs. Travel bugs have unique codes that owners and participants can use to track a bug’s movement on geocaching.com.

The travel bugs are accompanied by log books to record who discovers their hidden locations. Students may find that a travel bug originating in California has made its way to Ohio. Travel bugs resemble military dog tags and are usually hidden in small waterproof containers. Sometimes, they are accompanied by small items that are up for grabs—but if an item is taken, another item of similar value must be left in its place.

(Next page: How can educators start and use geoconferencing activities?)