I am a big fan of an addictive little gadget called GeoGuessr (www.geoguessr.com) and whilst it is important not to fall into the trap of promoting ‘edutainment’, this game can be used remarkably well in the classroom to develop geographical enquiry and geographical inference.
GeoGuessr is a clever little thing. It present you with an interactive Google Map location, in street view mode, and your job is to locate yourself on a map. This could be a world map, where you could be placed anywhere in the world, or there are now multiple other city/country map choices. On its own, this could be little more than a really geeky and addictive game, but when combined with some good questioning on the behalf of a teacher, it can become a really useful tool, to be used as a starter activity or as a regular plenary.
Let’s take a map and have a look.
What can we notice when we look on here? What can we notice that ties into the learning our children might do in the classroom?
First clue, to me at least, is the language used. At various points, you will find the written word – on road signs, on businesses, on shop fronts, on road marking. This can give you an immediate clue. The next question, upon seeing the words ‘Le Moulin Neuf’, which you might read out to the kids, is to question where in the world is French spoken.
France, Algeria, Morocco, Quebec… and so on.
What other clues can the kids find. Well they might notice the pretty bleak looking weather, which gives them a strong clue when they know about biomes, the proximity to the equator and so on. They might notice the trees in the distance, and notice that despite being distinctly Autumnal/Wintery, they are nonetheless very large trees of a variety you would not expect to see growing in North Africa. This inference might lead them back to their list, and they might decide on France.
Now they can hone in on the country, and zoom in. They can see it is beside a river, so their guess might be near a river. They can see they are not on the banks of the Seine in the middle of Paris. Looking around, they might notice they are in a fairly rural area. Perhaps the fact that the river is so narrow might suggest they are not far from the source of a river, rather than at its gaping mouth into the ocean.
The kids do not need to hit it bang on target in order to begin asking and answering questions which promote their geographical enquiry.
Let’s slam another map on there. This is just for you to play with.
Have a good look at what you can infer from this. Again, think of languages. Think of traffic direction. Think of weather. Think of the plants. Think of the lushness of the grass, and what this tells you about the weather patterns. Look at the condition of the road – does this suggest a well-off country with a stable infrastructure? It is perfectly valid for the kids to infer about the location by looking at the people they see too – if they see a wide mix of ethnicities, this tells you alot about the sort of place they could be. Traditional dress can tell a lot about the location too.
It can be used very effectively as a hook, and as a simple way to identify which children are able to use their skills of inquiry.
Have a play with it – http://www.geoguessr.com – then introduce it to your kids, making sure to ask questions.