The following crossed my RSS feed via one of my favorite online comics, XKCD.
Although humorous, the comic’s portrayal of American ignorance is troubling, especially for educators. Sure, the implication is that Americans know a lot about large chunks of the world. However, the comic also demonstrates attitudes that are troubling about those areas in the world that are not as familiar to us. To think, there was a time when we probably couldn’t have picked out Iraq or Afghanistan on a map.
How do we overcome this lack of geographical awareness?
As with any societal ignorance, the solution begins in our schools. Teachers have many tools available that can help them help their students learn about the far reaches of our planet. There’s the virtual reality of Google Earth and the many, many possibilities for this truly amazing tool.
There’s also the many alternative views of the world not found in our text books. Take the Peters Map which tries to represent the size of the continents in a more accurate manner. There are tools for mapping activity on Twitter which can help students see prevailing messages in different parts of the world. Language is closely tied to geography and there are plenty of maps for that sort of information. Or for a more personal touch to world geography, check into an account with ePals for a pen-pal project.
With so many resources available on the web, there are no excuses for not improving our global awareness. Maybe through a concerted effort, we can change comics like the one above.
Zac Early is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center. He updates his blog Suppl_eMINTS from time to time.
How will you use Google Earth in your instruction?
Google Earth for Educators – from the folks at Google features lesson plans, tutorials, and discussion groups. While at this site, visit the Google Earth Gallery which contains files developed by educators for use in classrooms.
Google Earth Ocean This video introduces the ocean layer in Google Earth. Learn to dive beneath the ocean surface to view ocean floor geography and visit ocean attractions highlighted in the ocean layer.
Google Earth is a great way to help students read maps and develop an understanding of geography, but Google Earth can also be a great tool for sharing data during a collaborative project.
Google Earth allows students to add text, data and pictures to a particular location on a map. Locations can be entered into Google Earth using GPS coordinates or simply an address. Descriptions, data and photos can be added to each location.
All of this material can be saved as a kmz file for sharing with others. These files can be opened in Google Earth for display on any computer. Collaboration with students from different geographic areas can be facilitated by uploading the kmz file to a website or portal where participants from different schools can download the file and add their information.
Many projects that involve examining different geographic locations could be enhanced by using Google Earth. Consider how adding pictures and text to locations on Google Earth might add to a Flat Stanley Project .
Many science investigations could benefit from using Google Earth to record information collected from different geographic locations. The Pathfinder Science Project involves many such investigations.
What about Chewing the Fat ? In this online project, students from different areas collect examples of slang. In the How Much Does it Cost project ,students compare the cost of items in different areas of the world . The ideas are endless.
Do you have other ideas for using Google Earth for sharing information and data?
Michelle Kendrick is a program coordinator for the eMINTS National Center.