The next generation of Geographers

No.. this is not about neo – paleo geography..

Like you is have been both funny and down right scary to watch this years collection of ‘Stupid People who know nothing about the world” videos, the two most popular I include below.

Where is my Map

Europe – is that a Country ?

Although both these examples are American, this is not just a problem in the United States, similar levels of ignorance are reported on this side of the Atlantic also..

What can be done, should we worry, well on one level the “Capes and Bays” fact based Geography which taught you the major rivers of each country and their capital cities has not been taught since the days of flip-top desks and ink bottles, and perhaps we should not worry too much about this. Although underlying the funny videos is a general lack of this type of knowledge.

The bigger concern is that Geography and the understanding and explaining the patterns in the world around us is just not seen as cool.. and this is a time when the change to the environment around us is seen as our biggest threat to continued happiness.

The Geography teacher is always the butt of jokes about corduroy jackets with leather elbow patches..

Perhaps technology can help here, can using GPS, Mobile phones that know your location and tools like Google Earth make Geography a cool subject.. well maybe at least they can help. Google in the UK this week announced a set of resources for use by teachers and many of them make use of Maps and Google Earth. These resources include lesson plans and links to additional resources which are really useful for Teachers, and potentially something you as a geospatial professional could offer to help out with at your children’s school.

Google Lesson

Last year I spent a happy lunchtime helping my Daughters class map their playground in Google Earth using a few GPS devices.. if your worry about the state of Geography Teaching and Knowledge, get out there and help change things…

Written and Submitted from the La Palma Hotel, Stresa, Italy, using its wifi network.

11 replies on “The next generation of Geographers”

Nice geography teaching resources – is Google also planning on joining forces here with other organisations who have complimentary initiatives?

For example you could have an ambassador from RGS give an intro talk to the class, followed by a Google tutorial, and then go out to the field to put it all into practice, using an OS map (free if you’re 11) when the battery in your mobile device has failed… (ie. after 10 minutes or so…)

Ed, It would be nice if every classroom (especially in the States) had an interactive whiteboard, and in many cases even an Internet connection. But I suppose what would be just as interesting for me — and in light of my interests, due to having a mother who was a school teacher — would be to see Google set-up a ‘children’s resource’ site specifically for lessons within Google Maps and Google Earth.

That, at least, can create an additional potential for parents to sit down with their children — which can have many benefits in learning and bonding, and not just for the children.

Of course, it would be ideal for every classroom here in the States to have an interactive whiteboard, or in many cases even an Internet connection. Unfortunately, I fear that in the current state of politics in education — that functionality has been sadly lacking. Apparently, our emphasis here in the States is on ‘the war’, not our children.

When asked what I do, I tell people that I am a geographer (and then usually explain that I am not a teacher and what I actually do). Judging from the responses I tend to get it appears that although there can be a general lack of geographical knowledge, there is a greater lack regarding geography’s scope and importance. Despite the “capes and bays” fact based geography learning being long gone, thats about the first thing that people associate with it.

As you said in your AGI 2007 talk: There are a lot of people out there who really need our help.

By the way great video in the end of your presentation (Books). Often this is really the case today.

Some of us (well me anyway) have been writing and publishing lessons with Google Earth and related technologies for several years now. Nice to see Google finally catching up. and are my work. I’m feeling pretty unsupported by Google and related companies though – since developing these kinds of lessons and hosting them is at considerable personal expense. Any chance of a corporate buyout?

Noel, great stuff. I don’t have any spare budget anymore, maybe refer your question to Ed! In all seriousness though, corporate sponsorship can be a double-edged sword anyway, as it might impede the academic freedom of the material (unwittingly or otherwise). We support RGS (for multiple reasons) but it is relatively low key and we are careful not to get too involved.

I think we just need more volunteers from more backgrounds… not everyone has the time to design cool web resources but it’s easy to become an RGS ambassador, for example. I’m giving my next talk in school this Friday… it’s good experience from a personal development point too: 16-year-olds are a lot scarier than corporate executives.

Thierry – of course I’m not serious about the buyout – but it would be quite nice to see a link from the Google School site to my lessons. I mentioned it to them and just got a generic “too busy to reply” response.

Actually I’m not all that impressed with the lessons – (I’ve only looked at the secondary ones) which seem to lack imagination.


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