Digital resources to strengthen the quality and quantity of geography education in classrooms the world over
Curated by Seth Dixon
Earlier I shared a dynamic map of near-live wind data for the United States and a static rendering of global wind patterns. This combines the features of both of those resources to provide a mesmerizing digital globe. This visualization of global weather conditions is updated every three hours from supercomputer data projections. Click on the 'earth' text in the lower left-hand corner to customize the display. For examining the wind patterns and oceans currents, this is much more useful than Google Earth; this is definitely one of my favorite resources.
"A 3-minute journey through the last 250 years of our history, from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the Rio+20 Summit. The film charts the growth of humanity into a global force on the equivalent scale to major geological processes."
Many geologists and other scientists now recognize that we are in a new geologic era. This new era, called the Anthropocene, is distinguished by the fact that one species (homo sapiens), is dramatically modifying the environment. These modifications are impacting geologic processes to such a degree that this time period is geologically distinct (see this remote sensing interactive for examples of environmental change). Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize–winning scientist who champions the term Anthropocene declared, “It’s no longer us against ‘Nature.’ Instead, it’s we who decide what nature is and what it will be.” This video is a great primer for discussing the nature and extent of human and environmental interactions as related to industrialization, globalization and climate change. This is definitely one of my favorite resources.
"Overview video for GE Teach http://geteach.com/maps."
GE Teach is a powerful mapping platform that harnesses the power of Google Earth into a user-friendly format. I've you've ever wanted multiple maps on the screen to compare and contrast, this is great tool. Designed by an APHG teacher, this is a great way to bring geospatial technologies into the classroom. With multiple data layers of physical and human geography variables, this becomes an interactive globe. Click here for the video tutorial.
Charts showing how Americans have moved between states for 112 years.
This incredible series of interactive charts from the New York Times show where the residents of every U.S. state were born and how that data has changed over time (update: now available as an interactive map). This graph of Florida shows that around 1900, most people living in Florida were from the South. Around the middle of the 20th century more people from other parts of the U.S. and from outside the U.S. started moving in. What changes in U.S. society led to these demographic shifts? How has demographics of your state changes over the last 114 years?
On the flip side, many people have been leaving California and this article charts the demographic impact of Californians on other states.
Have you even wanted to explore an interactive map of the United States and be able to click on any neighborhood to see the local population age structure and compare that to the national, state or county data? If not, you don't know what you've been missing. This is a fantastic resource that lets you and your students explore the data AND ask spatial questions. It's definitely one that I'll add to my list of favorite resources.
"For 75 years, Finland's expectant mothers have been given a box by the state. It's like a starter kit of clothes, sheets and toys that can even be used as a bed. And some say it helped Finland achieve one of the world's lowest infant mortality rates."
This is a fascinating article that can be a great case study to share with students to allow them to analyze the factors that can improve infant mortality rates. In Finland the government provided oversight to improve infant mortality rates, pre-natal care and promote good parenting in a way that has had tangible results.
"Sovereignty over land defines nation states since 1648. In contrast, sovereign right over the sea was formalised only in 1982. While land borders are well-known, sea borders escape the limelight."
These maritime borders mark the economic area is defined by its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), a 200-nautical mile-wide (370 km) strip of sea along the country’s national coast line. This regulation, which was installed by the ‘UN Convention on the Law of the Sea’ in 1982, grants a state special rights to exploit natural (such as oil) and marine (for instance fish) resources, including scientific research and energy production (wind-parks, for example). This interactive map of the EEZs also shows the 'donut holes,' or the seas that are no state can claim that no state can claim. Given the number of conflicts that are occurring--especially in East Asia--this map becomes a very valuable online resource for teaching political geography.
Questions to ponder: how does this series of buffer zones around the Earth's land masses impact politics, the environment and local economies? Where might the EEZs be more important to the success of a country/territory than other regions?
"The global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is an international measure of acute poverty covering over 100 developing countries. It complements traditional income-based poverty measures by capturing the severe deprivations that each person faces at the same time with respect to education, health and living standards."
The MPI was developed out of a desire to fill some of the gaps in the HDI's applicability and utility. Allow me to quote the editor of one the NCGE's journals, the Geography Teacher, on the usefulness of the MPI website for classroom use: "With the infographics, maps, graphs, country briefings, and case studies, you have a ready-made lesson activities to demonstrate patterns of fertility, mortality, and health for a population unit, and access to health care, education, utilities, and sanitation for an Industrialization and Economic Development Unit. Connections can also be made to malnutrition and water, as well as to key concepts such as pattern and scale, to key geographical skills such as how to use and think about maps and geospatial data, and to the use of online maps and online data." Also, this article from the World Bank also give a run-down on the key findings of the MPI in 2014.
Smarty Pins is a Google Maps based geography and trivia game.
As stated in a review of Smarty Pins on Mashable, "Google unveiled a fun new game this week that tests players' geography and trivia skills. Called 'Smarty Pins' the game starts players off with 1,000 miles (or 1,609 kilometers if they're not based in the United States), and asks them to drop a pin on the city that corresponds with the correct answer to a given question."
This game is wonderfully addictive...I haven't enjoyed a mapping trivia platform this much since I discovered GeoGuessr. I answered 38 questions before I ran out of miles...how far did you get?
The vocabulary and concepts of maps kids should learn to enhance their map-skills & geography awareness. Concise definitions with clear illustrations.
You and your students can browse through this interactive map for an update on conflict situations around the world. The International Crisis Group is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict; they've created this interactive map to help us stay informed about the most important conflict issues around the world. I'm placing this on my list of favorite resources as this is one worth returning to on a regular basis.
As the climate shifts, rivers will both flood and dry up more often, according to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Shortages are especially likely in parts of the world already strapped for water, so political scientists expect feuds will become even more intense. To track disputes worldwide, researchers at Oregon State University spent a decade building a comprehensive database of international exchanges—-both conflicts and alliances—over shared water resources. They found that countries often begin disputes belligerently but ultimately reach peaceful agreements. Says Aaron Wolf, the geographer who leads the project, “For me the really interesting part is how even Arabs and Israelis, Indians and Pakistanis, are able to resolve their differences and find a solution.”
Too often we think of political conflicts within the framework of state borders; this mapping project divides the world into watersheds and forces us to look at global politics through a different and enlightening lens (Hi-Res image). Oil might be the most economically valuable liquid resource, but water is the most critical for human habitation. This infographic is reminiscent of this one, asking where the next 'water wars' might take place...Foreign Policy says Central Asia.
This is a big announcement from ESRI, home of ArcGIS online and other geospatial tools. They are making ArcGIS online organizational accounts free for all K-12 schools in the United States. As ESRI spokespeople have said, "this will open up ArcGIS Online far beyond just a public account, by permitting more control of sharing, access to more data, engaging much more powerful analyses, supporting apps like Collector or Explorer, integrating with ArcMap and Microsoft Office, enabling login to Community Analyst, and lots more, with still more on the way." Click here to request an organizational account for your school.
EnviroAtlas is a collection of interactive tools and resources that allows users to explore the many benefits people receive from nature, often referred to as ecosystem services. Key components of EnviroAtlas include the following:
This video is a brief introduction on how to utilize the EnviroAtlas mapping platform that has been created by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This has great potential for the classroom and as a portal for students to explore the data on their own.
"The Habitable Planet is a multimedia course for high school teachers and adult learners interested in studying environmental science. The Web site provides access to course content and activities developed by leading scientists and researchers in the field."
The Great Green Wall initiative uses an integrated approach to restore a diversity of ecosystems to the North African landscape.
The Great Green Wall initiative is composed of 11 countries that are cooperating together to combat the physical and human geographic characteristics that make the Sahel one of the more vulnerable ecosystems in the world. This swath running through Africa is the transition zone where tropical Africa meets the Sahara. The Sahel is susceptible to drought, overgrazing, land degradation and desertification. These issues of resource management and land use transcend international borders so this "Green Wall" was created with the intent to protect the environment, landscapes and people of the Sahel from desert encroachment (as an aside, the Green Wall spatially corresponds nicely with the apocryphal Mountains of Kong).
"Population statistics are like crystal balls -- when examined closely, they can help predict a country's future (and give important clues about the past). Kim Preshoff explains how using a visual tool called a population pyramid helps policymakers and social scientists make sense of the statistics, using three different countries' pyramids as examples."
This is an incredibly powerful and remarkably well-done TED-ED lesson on the importance and value of population pyramids. This lesson goes nicely with this article fro the World Bank entitled "The End of the Population Pyramid" which highlights the demographic changes that will be reshaping global demographics in the next 50-100 years.
Translate any word from English to more than 30 other European languages, on a map
This is an incredible resource to visualize the linguistic similarities between European languages all on one interactive map. Just type in a word or phrase as it will translate it for you and place the results on the map. I just found this, but I think it still belongs on my list of favorite resources.
Questions to Ponder: Do you see any regions forming? How does language impact the diffusion of people, ideas and goods? Hoe do you think these languages diffused?
"An 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of northern Chile, generating a local tsunami. The USGS reported the earthquake was centered 95 km (59 miles) northwest of Iquique at a depth of 20.1km (12.5 miles). This video gives the context for this type of earthquake."
I woke up this morning to news of a large earthquake in Chile (security camera video footage). IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology) creates teaching resources for teachers who want to use the current events such as yesterday's earthquake in Chile as an opportunity to discuss earth's physical systems and how they impact humanity. They've produces slides, animations and PDFs for classroom use all while you were sleeping last night.
In recent decades the state allowed logging — with restrictions — on the plateau above the Snohomish County hillside that collapsed in last weekend’s deadly mudslide.
There are several reasons for mudslides--some are purely a result of physical geography and others are related to land use patterns. This last week's mudslide in Washington state was a combination of the two and although this impacts one place (see on map), it is a good teaching moment to discuss the environmental impacts of land use patterns and resource extraction projects. As seen in this interactive, the river was cutting at the base of the hill, while loggers were clear-cutting at the top of the mountain. Trees help prevent erosion as the roots hold the soil in place--a critical piece to the puzzle in a very rainy climate. With $1 million worth of timber on the slope, logging companies persisted despite objections from the Department of Natural Resources and some restrictions (but in hindsight, those restrictions clearly were not enough).
Questions to Consider: Other than economic worth, what other ways are there to value and evaluate the environment? How could this landscape have been protected and managed better or was this mudslide inevitable?
What is blue, a quarter of a mile long, and taller than London's Olympic stadium? The answer - this year's new class of container ship, the Triple E. When it goes into service this June, it will be the largest vessel ploughing the sea. Each will contain as much steel as eight Eiffel Towers and have a capacity equivalent to 18,000 20-foot containers (TEU).
These containers are symbols of global commerce that enable economies of scale to be profitable and the outsourcing of so many manufacturing jobs to developing countries. The invention of these containers have changed the geography of global shipping and the vast majority of the world's largest ports are now in East Asia. Today though, the biggest container ships are too big to go through the Panama Canal, encouraging China to build a larger canal through Nicaragua.
"Earth is constantly changing. Some changes are a natural part of the climate system, such as the seasonal expansion and contraction of the Arctic sea ice pack. The responsibility for other changes, such as the Antarctic ozone hole, falls squarely on humanity’s shoulders. Our World of Change series documents how our planet’s land, oceans, atmosphere, and Sun are changing over time."
"In Raleigh, N.C., there's a house... or what looks like a house. What's hidden inside is more important than most people realize. Read the story: http://wunc.org/post/video-whats-inside-house-wade-avenue "
What looks like a wonderful little "Scooby-Doo" mystery turns out to be a great place-based video on city planning, land use and utilities (I don't want to ruin the surprise that comes at the 2 minute mark, but don't worry, it's worth it). If you are teaching a course trying to help students to think about the inner-workings of a city this article would be a very attention grabbing way to make a good point (NPR posted article on this as well). What 'secrets' are hidden in plain sight in your local neighborhood?
"The Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond has created an enhanced version of the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, which was published in 1932. The atlas, which took dozens of researchers to assemble, used maps to illustrate a variety of political, demographic and economic concepts."
I'm sure many of you have already seen it but this is a gem. This is something that you must explore on your own, but I will say that there should be something for everyone in this digital treasure trove. Read a New York Times review on the digital atlas here.
Professor Seth Dixon shares over 50 of his favorite geography videos in this online map http://bit.ly/KDY6C2
Have you ever wanted to watch a video and to have a map handy at the same time? Ever since I first watched Raiders of the Lost Ark, I love the idea of combining video with maps. I produced this bare-bones map on ArcGIS online to spatially index over 50 videos that I enjoy using in my classes; all are place-specific videos (so they can be ‘located’ on the map). These videos have also been shared here earlier, but this map can function as a more user-friendly way to search for engaging video clips. Do you have a great place-based video that teaches the principles of geography that you love? Please share the URL in the comments section with a brief paragraph.