Friday, December 26, 2008

The Future of Geography = Online Gaming?

There is no secret that the US has lagged behind on science, math, and geography. It seems every month there is someone doing a survey in which Americans can't identify whether names given are cities or countries, never mind where they might be in the world (or even in the states). Do we know the difference between Iran and Iraq? Can we find East Timor on a map? How about Somalia? Or more specifically, Mogadishu? How can we take action in places like Darfur if we don't even know whether it is a city, a region, or a country (or where in the world is Sudan)?

So how do we improve our geography skills? How do we stack up against other people in the world?

One way is to travel everywhere in the world. I'm doing what I can in that regard, but at 17 countries I'm hitting less than 10% of the nations on the planet so that doesn't seem like a viable option. We could also study maps and take lots of tests, but we all know how much most of us like doing that.

Geosense offers another that takes advantage of our natural tendency to want to play online games. Geosense lets you play alone, or do real-time head-to-head challenges with people from all around the world. You can play with an interactive map of the world, an advanced map, just Europe, or just the US. You can even scramble it all over.

You'll be shown a series of city names. Depending on your map choice, a state or country name is also included. All you have to do is click the city's location on the map. If you play against others you will see your pick and their pick (as well as the correct pick). So there is pressure not only to know where the location is but to find and click on it faster than your opponent. Accuracy and timing add up as points.

Will it work? Will students (and their parents) get into the game and maybe learn a thing or two? I think it will help. We tend to be glued to our computers so why not take advantage of it to learn some geography.

Check out Geosense and let me know. It can be quite addictive.