Due to a wearisome wintry mix generating treacherous travel conditions throughout rural and metropolitan areas in the Georgia, many of my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances are stuck at home today. Home is a great place to be when weather makes driving so dangerous and deadly. Since many of the people I know chafe at being sequestered in their own domiciles, I’m offering up a bit of a digital distraction today, a means of electronic egress from the shackles of familiar surroundings. RandomStreetView picks up visitors and drops them down in a random location. Travelers never really know where they are likely to end up. So what? It’s the journey–not the destination–that matters.
Often, when students are given an assignment to complete, whether responding to literature, researching another culture, performing a science experiment, or practicing calculations, they gloss over the power of place. What’s so special about a location?
Quite a bit, actually.
Having a firm grasp of location brings a great deal of context to all manner of content. When a student, a teacher–anyone really–has a solid understanding of where an event, idea, or process originated or a particular person or group of people came to prominence, the likelihood of engaging, memorable learning increases significantly. The power of place includes (but is certainly not limited to):
Though sad, this historical event presents an engrossing opportunity for students and teachers to collaborate and engage in interdisciplinary research. It’s a perfect storm of learning. Delving into what lead up to the tragedy allows pupils to explore elements of:
Diving into this and other historical events, using them as case-study investigations into why and how things happen, makes learning more rewarding and allows students to integrate technology resources in a more meaningful manner.
Keyhole Markup Language (KML) is a handy programming language that every educator and student should appreciate and explore. It’s great! KML was originally created by a company called Keyhole, Inc. that derived its name from KH reconnaissance satellites, the original eye-in-the-sky military reconnaissance satellites that were first launched in 1976. KML is very, very useful for representing geographic-related information. If you’ve got geographic information, digitize that data and KML will help you display it with impressive clarity on a computerized map. It’s no wonder that KML was developed for use with Google Earth, a super-spiffy digital globe.
As bad as the recent H1N1 Swine Flu crisis is–and to be sure, the rapid spread of the illness is quite troubling–the event presents a powerful opportunity for authentic learning. Thanks to technology resources such as web mapping service applications like Google Maps and dynamically updated information by way of RSS, students, educators, and citizens everywhere can reinforce use of knowledge and skills from diverse disciplines such as Reading, Geography, Science, Math, Economics, and Media Literacy. By following reports of H1N1 Swine Flu and reflecting upon what’s needed to maintain a healthy body, economy, government, and society, policy-makers, educators, pupils, and common citizens have a chance to blend and apply knowledge in a real-world manner that leaves traditional, textbook-driven instruction far behind. The H1N1 Swine Flu emergency reinforces the importance of access to critical data, the ability to differentiate between unreliable and reliable information, problem-solving, decision-making, and creativity. How motivated and well-prepared are your students to monitor news, integrate content knowledge and skills, and make choices that ensure a long and healthy life?
Somewhat forgotten, a 2006 report on bird flu from the United States Congressional Budget Office explores the possible economic effects of an avian flu pandemic. Though we’re currently dealing with Swine Flu, the 2006 report found that a pandemic could “produce a short-run impact on the worldwide economy similar in depth and duration to that of an average postwar recession in the United States.” Ugh!
If you teach Social Studies, be sure to take a gander at SHOW. This web-based service is a nifty online tool that appeared on the scene May of this year. Developed by Mapping Worlds, this site gives visitors a better perspective on world issues. SHOW re-sizes countries on a map of the world according to a series of global issues.
For example, if pupils are researching which countries rely upon coal for energy. They can swing over to SHOW, click on the PLANET tab, locate ENERGY, and choose COAL.
After selecting the parameters, the map on the screen changes, reflecting that the countries being displayed have been changed size so as to reflect the amount of each nation’s coal reserves (the more tons of coal a nation has in its reserves, the bigger the nation appears). This is how the map looks after the countries have been re-sized. Note that the United States appears to be larger than China. Learners need only hover their mouse over the nation to discover why it is smaller in the graphic representation. China has 114.5 billion tons of coal reserves.
In contrast, after hovering over the United States, students can see that the United States has 242.6 billion tons of coal. If pupils doubt the veracity of the information or merely wish to cite the source, they need only look over on the right-hand side of the map to see where the information originated. In this instance, there’s a refernce to data contained in a 2005 document from the World Energy Council. It’s true that pupils could easily refer to a table of numerical information regarding coal reserves. However, by using SHOW, students have an opportunity to explore that same data in an engaging manner that activates higher order thinking.