Friday, December 17, 2010

10 Resources for Teaching Geography with Technology

I minored in geography in college, as my original goal was to be a meteorologist and chase tornadoes in Oklahoma.  The geography resources available now, are nothing in comparison to what is available to students today.  I have a passion for geography, always liked maps and learning about countries.  Not sure where it came from, but it helped guide me towards teaching social studies.  Here are some tips that I have for teaching Geography with technology.

1.) Google Earth is by far the best tool to explore the continents, countries, cities, and oceans.  I am a huge fan of Google Earth and it is only getting better.  One way to use Google Earth is to zoom into a location in the world.  Zoom in really close.  Then have students ask yes or no questions.  Every question that gets a yes, you zoom out just a little bit.  This is a great method to teach kids Absolute and Relative location.  Google just released version 6, so I suggest downloading it.  If your district blocks access to it, create a list of ways you plan to use it and submit it showing it as a powerful education tool.  If you need help with Google Earth, check out the following resource.  Other Resources include: How to Teach With Google Earth, and Google Earth Lessons,.and Google Earth for Educators: 50 Exciting Ideas for the Classroom.  If you don't want to use Google Earth for the activity you might also be interested in using MapCrunch which is a random Google Street View location.

2.) Use Google Maps to "Trek" across places in the world.  I wrote a post about this earlier, and I will just share it again.  This is a great way to teach the movement and places themes. 

3.) Climate is something that is part of geography at the high school level.  One way to teach change in climate is have students set-up a webcam either at home or at school when a storm is supposed to be coming.  Set the camera to take pictures at a certain interval of time.  Use Time Lapse Creator to show change over time for climate in your hometown as the storm system comes through.  The site has a great example.  Students can then discuss local climate change.  You could then take this into a discussion about Human-Environment Interaction.

4.) If It Were My Home is a great site for students to understand the themes of Place and Region.  It allows you to compare sizes of several countries and natural disasters to your home town.  Students have a hard time grasping the actual size of countries, so if you can put it over your home town, they will better understand is size. 

5.) Maps are a great tool, and over the past five years, there has been a huge increase in map based resources.  Coloring maps is so 2008.  Students in geography should be studying the impact of humans on nature and the impact humans have on each other.  TargetMap is a site that allows users to create their own maps with data sets they can determine based on research.  When students are done with the maps, they can then submit them to the teacher to be graded.  This site can help cover all 5 themes of Geography.

6.) Another Map tool is ShowWorld.  As mentioned above, students have a hard time grasping size and data.  ShowWorld helps compare countries based on certain data and then alters their physical size compared to the data selected.  You can choose between 5 different categories, which then breaks down into sub-categories, which then provides options for different data sets.  A great tool for teaching the five themes of Geography.  Each map provides information as well in terms of ranking and numerical data.

7.) Atlas of the Biosphere is a site that presents maps from each continent based on 4 areas - Human Impacts, Land Use, Ecosystems, and Water Resources.  Each of the 4 areas is then broken down into specific data (Infant Mortality Rate, Life Expectancy, etc).  There are also schematics available that show processes in motion, like the Hydrologic cycle. 

8.) Country Studies is a "website contains the on-line versions of books previously published in hard copy by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress as part of the Country Studies/Area Handbook Series sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Army between 1986 and 1998. Each study offers a comprehensive description and analysis of the country or region's historical setting, geography, society, economy, political system, and foreign policy."  Another great option is Atlapedia.  Students doing a country project?  Maybe using Glogster or Prezi, or a Digital Story Telling Tool?  This would be a great start.

9.) Scribble Maps is a site that allows you to digitally write on top of Google Maps.  This would be a great site to use to teach about different countries or aspects of the earth (Longitude and Latitude, rivers, borders, etc) because you would be able to draw and highlight specific lines for students to see.  Each STRAIGHT line you draw gives you a distance and latitude and longitude point.  You also get all the regular features of Google Maps.

10.) A couple of tools to use in the classroom with your students is the Map Maker where students can decide what goes on a map in terms of borders, cities, and categories of data.  This would be a great tool to use in the classroom as an introduction to a lesson.  Another great website is Gapminder, which allows students to see data change over time in relation to statistics, like World Population.  You can pause the interactive to discuss why the data changes (World events like WWII).  To see it in action, watch the great video below.

In the coming weeks and month(s) I will be doing similar posts for Economics, Government, U.S. History, World History, Reading, Writing, Spelling, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth-Space Science, Algebra, Geometry, and Health and P.E.  So Stay Tuned!

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