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Is GPS Ruining Our Navigation Skills?

Is GPS Ruining Our Navigation Skills? | Geography Education |
Relying on GPS devices can erode our ability to develop mental maps.


While GPS technology can help us in a pinch, relying primarily on a system that does not engage our navigation skills will weaken our ability to perform these functions.  While this intuitively makes sense, that the 'mental muscles' would atrophy when not used, it is a reminder that an overuse of geospatial technologies can be intellectually counterproductive.  


A distinction should be made between outdoor GPS usage (where the user receives data and makes navigational decisions) and vehicular GPS usage (where the computer typically will make all the decisions for you).  As long as you are a part of the decision-making process, you will be strengthening your navigationals skills.  In London cab drivers, they've discovered that their brains expand as they aquire 'the knowledge' of the city: 

Seth Dixon's comment, August 27, 2012 12:16 PM
The brain is just like a muscle and if you turn over the spatial analysis part of your brain over to a machine, you lose the ability to understand spatial relationships in you own neighborhood.
Paige T's comment, August 28, 2012 2:25 PM
GPS devices can work as an easy, quick solution once in a while. However, we are becoming very reliant on them to the point where some people are watching the GPS rather than the road. I recently drove through a town for the second time and had almost no memory of where I was going because the first time around I used a GPS to navigate my way. Maps are great because you can not only plan out your route, but you can also easily see the surrounding area.
Daniel Lindahl's curator insight, March 20, 5:54 PM

This article emphasizes that in recent years people have put a heavy reliance on their GPS systems. This is not a bad thing, but it means that people hardly ever look at maps anymore. By not looking at maps, people not only limit their spatial view locally, but also their ability to understand where places are on a global scale. This limits geographic literacy. 

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