The Importance of Geo-Literacy

What is geography? Is it the memorization of capitals, states, and countries? Or has it evolved into a larger concept?
According to the National Geographic Society, geography education in modern times has evolved from its archaic definition of memorization, to one of a geo-literate populace. Geo-literacy, according to Daniel Edelson, Vice-President of Education for National Geographic, interrelates the interactions, interconnections, and implications that occur on our planet.
Video courtesy of NG Education and the Geographic Education Alliances.
Edelson has devoted much of his career to educating about the concept of geo-literacy and promoting its use in classrooms around the world. His research and writings are so extensive that we have created an entire collection of them on our website. Although just a small excerpt of Edelson’s work, they address critical issues in modern-day geography education, as seen from the perspective of the National Geographic Education Foundation’s Executive Director.

Learn more
Explore the afore-mentioned collection for a variety of interesting articles on the importance of a geo-literate population. For a brief overview, the video Why is Geo-Literacy Important?, below, gives a simple synopsis of the benefits and consequences of societies who succeed and fail in geo-educating their populations.
Video courtesy of National Geographic Education.
Get Involved
Motivated yet? There are an abundance of ways for educators, parents, and community members to get involved in educating our next generation on geo-literacy. To begin with, explore this article on citizen science and get involved in National Geographic’s signature citizen science program, BioBlitz.
Are you a geographer, cartographer, GIS analyst, or professional in a related field? Do you value your work and understand its importance to society? Do you want to ensure that future generations properly utilize the geographical tools at their fingertips? Then learn more about the importance of GeoMentors, and the difference they are making in modern geography education. According to our partner in the GeoMentor program, ESRI, “anyone who recognizes… where things are, and how they relate to other things” can be a GeoMentor.
Former National Geographic Education Intern Eric Spencer wrote about the importance of GeoMentors’ participation on GIS Day and throughout Geography Awareness Week. In his post, Esri International User Conference: A Geographer’s Place to Be, he provides some tips for getting involved in this effort. Moreover, Edelson chimes in once again with further suggestions on how you can make a difference during GAWeek in your hometown.
What about conventional geography education in classrooms? Will it disappear with the advent of GIS? According to Edelson, not at all. There still exists a role for old-fashioned geographia in education, but we have yet to harness its true potential. Classrooms maps can be scaled up, teaching methods can be improved and innovated, and geo-literacy can be ever further defined.
In the end, ensuring a comprehensive geographical education depends on us. Whether an educator, parent, or interested individual, I challenge you to take geo-literacy back to school with you this fall, and do your part to change the world for the better.
— Justin Fisch for National Geographic Education


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