Trying Something New: Google Maps Games and More

Recently I attended a Google Education Summit hosted by the Ed Tech Team. It was two days of intensive, brain-busting, ed-tech heaven.  In addition to keynote addresses and app slams, there were eight sessions, each with over 5 options to choose from.  Although there were only about two people that I recognized from my own school division in attendance, a colleague from another school has suggested that I share some of the nuggets here in my ‘Trying Something New’ space.  So here you go, Sherry….

One of my biggest passion areas is geography, so why not start there? I attended a great session on Google-Mappy-Goodness, so here are some of the highlights.

  1. https://smartypins.withgoogle.com/ – This is a most addicting geography game. It’s not the first or only one of its kind, but I do like that it gives hints after the ‘bonus’ time clock has elapsed. Basically you get about 1600km to start with; every kilometer that you are away from the target, you lose kilometers …at zero your game is over. On my iPad, I eventually realized that I could chose a favourite category, such as ‘Science and Geography’; this was helpful as I could avoid the ‘Entertainment’ category!  A significant downside to this site is that it is VERYsmartypinsAmerican based, although it does allow for kilometers. (Fortunately, I am able to do well at the game because I have traveled to Washington, DC several times and every 3rd or 4th question seems to be located in or near the American capitol.) In fact, although I have had a few Africa and Australia questions and handfuls of Europe questions, I have not encountered a single Canadian question.  I can’t seem to find anywhere to change the settings to amend this.   Addicting nonetheless.
  2. Another fun geography game is geoguessr.com  This is great game for critical thinking.  It gives you a google maps image of a town or country side and you have to guess where in the world it is. Sometimes I can’t even get on the right continent, but types of vehicles, houses, road conditions and of course vegetation and topography can all be clues. Now and then they will throw you the occasional road sign to use as a hint.  Now here is a great Canada option!  Once you are in the game you can substitute “Canada” for “world” in the url, and it will give you Canadian locations. The screen shot below shows your score at the end of the game and how far off you were for each guess.geoguessr
  3. Of course the most exciting aspect is learning again what new powers are in Google Maps.  Check out https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/   to get to Google’s My Maps.  From here you can create all sorts of wonderful layers of maps. You can turn the layers off and on. Like any good Google map, you can add place pins with biography notes, pictures (slide shows even!) and videos.  You can even draw an outline around a country, thus creating a polygon. You can then drag polygon to anywhere on the world map to compare its real size –try this with Greenland! Here is a link to the map that I am trying out as a new format for my class Current Events notes. If the link works, it should look like this image below. Each pin is customized and contains a summary for our Current Events notebooGoogle CE Mapks, as well as pictures and even video links.  At this point I’m still getting used to the building process, and haven’t tried using it live with my class instead of  my reliable Smart Notebook file format.  Hopefully soon.  There are way too many features to Google Maps and I am far too inexperienced to describe their use, but it is certainly worth watching some youtube explanations about!
  4. Of course, there is the new Google Earth that geo-types are buzzing about…..more to explore!

So, that’s my Geo -Learning from my Google Summit Experience.  Thanks @armstrongedtech

The Geography + News Experiment

In September I wrote about trying a new method for how I include the study of Current Events in my high school Social Studies course. The biggest change to my previous methodology was a real focus on plotting our news stories on a world map, and identifying the location by longitude and latitude co-ordinates. The “testing” of our current events discussions was also a more formal method than I had recently been using.

The first thing that I noticed with students in September was how greatly deficient most students were when it came to knowing what to do with latitude and longitude. The first day, given two coordinates, over half the students in each class could not accurately locate the spot; many did not even know how to begin to guess. It was interesting to see them help each other as we practiced this in the early weeks of the semester.

The second thing that I noticed was that overall, many students just have a poor sense of geography. On day one, for example, several high school students could not identify the continent of South America. And while many indicated at the end of the semester that their understanding of where places are in the world had improved somewhat to significantly, many still are dazed and confused. Some still couldn’t tell you which coast of North America California could be found on. Some still could not identify where the Middle East was located, even though this was a semester where Syria was in the news repeatedly.

So, a new semester starts next week. What will my Geography + News Experiment look like?

  1. I will continue the format for a 2nd semester.
  2. At the very beginning of the semester, I will have them do a map where they label the continents and watch a video about how latitude and longitude work — yes, this is high school.
  3. I will incorporate some days in the semester where THEY are responsible for researching the most important news stories and writing an effective summary.
  4. I may change the testing format. The process was overwhelming to some students the first time they saw the test, and although most were very successful once they caught on to the format, the overall time it took to administer the tests was greater than I had anticipated. Stuck at time point on how to find the right balance…

So the experiment to increase general geographic knowledge along with an increased understanding of national and world events continues….