Monday, January 12, 2015

Using Maps in the News to Teach Geography

Mapping “Je Suis Charlie:”  A Lesson in Geography

In the hours following the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine office in Paris, France, millions of people on Twitter began using the hashtag “Je Suis Charlie” as a demonstration of unity for the people of France.  According to The Telegraph, the hashtag was tweeted at a rate of 6,500 times per minute and featured 3.4 million tweets in just one 24-hour period.

The Telegraph published a heat-map depicting the frequency of tweets using the hashtag.  Most of Europe, populated Canada, and the United States were lit up brightly on the map, as were many of the Caribbean Islands with ties to France. 

Identifying specific countries and cities on the map would be a timely lesson for geography students of all ages.  Teachers could have students working in groups or individually use a world map or atlas to try to determine locations identified on the heat-map. 

Some world cities are easy to locate:  Circles marking Wellington, New Zealand; Manila, Philippines; Lima, Peru; Seoul, South Korea; and Osaka and Tokyo, Japan can be clearly identified.  Delhi, India is a clear location on the map, but what city lies on the east coast of the country, just across from Sri Lanka?  And what island country is lit up just southwest of India?

Bangkok, Thailand is clearly depicted on the map.  But what cities in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea are depicted?  And what city on the coast of southern China is clearly defined with lots of tweets?

Most of the United States and populated Canada is lit up so that cities cannot be distinguished.  But what two cities in the north and central parts of Canada are shown with circles?  And can students identify which circle represents Mexico City?  And Rio de Janeiro is clearly located on the coast of Brazil, but what city is shown in central Brazil?

In Russia and the Ukraine, students may be able to identify Moscow and St. Petersburg and Kiev.  But what city is located at the circle in the far north of Russia just below Novaya Zemlya?  And what city is being depicted in Kazakhstan?

And Sydney and Melbourne, Australia can be identified on the east coast of the country.  But what cities are located in the center of Australia and near the northern part of Queensland?

Some countries in Africa show strong use of the hashtag, although actual cities associated with the locations may be more unclear.  Cote D’Ivoire has historical ties to France, as does Gabon in central Africa.  Reunion and other islands located east of Madagascar are also associated with France.  Other clear circles are depicted in Libya, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Cape Verde.  But what countries are identified with lighter circles in northern and central Africa?

The Ball State University Libraries GIS Research and Map Collection (GRMC) creates custom geography lesson plans, games, and maps for use by K-12 teachers in the classroom.  These resources can be accessed from the Cardinal Scholar digital repository.  In fact, one teacher recently referred to the GRMC section of Cardinal Scholar as "Pinterest for teachers."  

For more information, please contact the GRMC at 765-285-1097.

No comments: