Educators stuck in the age of lightning-speed technological growth may sometimes find themselves “the students” when it comes to keeping up with the latest advancements and applications. “The World” by National Geographic, an iPad-compatible app created in August 2011, is the ideal tool to help teachers leave behind the 1970’s style approaches of teaching geography–with chalkboards and heavy maps–and move into 21st century education. Now any teacher can give Mary Poppins a run for her money with classroom maps, atlases, globes, and world flags all available in the palm of his or her hand. Not only great for teachers, “The World” is an enjoyable reference tool for anyone interested in expanding their knowledge of cartography and cultural geography and taking traditional print (maps) into the digital environment.
As one user said [on the iTunes review page], “The pictures are brilliant, the facts presented for each country are perfectly laid out, and the functionality of this app is very intuitive. Hats off to NG for an app well done.”
The app allows users to manipulate the world with their fingertips. In terms of exploring physical geography, the “globe” function can spin, rotate, zoom, overlay country or regional atlas data, and identify locations. For more cultural geography uses, the app includes demographics, flags, and National Geographic photographs from every country.
Additionally, the app includes a description of each country highlighting major historical events and offering insight into the current condition of the country. The demographics include basic facts such as population size, capital city, land area, and government structure, all of which are bullet-pointed for quick, convenient access.
Like what you hear? Bring “The World” to your classroom with our suggested starter activity:
(For grades 3-5): 1. Have students pick a favorite flag from any country in the world in the flag library–make sure each student selects a different flag. 2. Once you generate a complete class list of countries, visit the National Geographic Education website where you’ll find one-page country maps that can be marked up, printed, and displayed around the classroom. Have students use the drawing and labeling tools on the one-page map interface to mark their maps (in a computer lab or for homework), and then have them draw a picture of something they associate with their country on their printed map. 3. Have each student do a little research using the country descriptions in the app and give a presentation about their country to the class. 4. Make it a regular activity by assigning new countries in follow-up exercises. Encourage students to add more information to their maps each time, and watch your classroom map art grow from fall to spring. You can also invite another class to participate by including them in a countries of “The World” challenge to complete all of the world’s countries. Celebrate by throwing a “Wonderful World Geography” party when you’re done!
Adaptation for younger grades (K-2): Do the activity as a whole-class exercise exploring 4-6 countries. Look at the flags together and ask students to choose their favorite country. Have students sit in groups to color their selected countries with crayons, noting major features such as mountains, rivers, and the National Capitol. Work with each group to write a few key features of each country on their maps, using the country descriptions provided plus any other background knowledge or relevant travel experience. Have students from each group share ideas about their country with the rest of the class.
Make sure to take great pictures of your decorated class room and tell us about your successes at NatGeoEd@ngs.org; subject line “Geo Story”.
* “The World” is also capable of incorporating user-generated photos and can be shared on Twitter and Facebook. Requires an iPad iOS verison 4.2 or later.
–Julia from My Wonderful World