Making the Transition in Geography Teaching: Electronic and Print Materials

Article excerpt


Geographic education has been in a major transition zone for the past several years. This is not a new concept for geographers, since regional transitions in climate, land use, and dominant languages are fundamental geographic concepts. However, the transition zone referred to here is taking place in classrooms across the United States and around the world. It is the shift from traditional teaching technology such as texts, laboratories, and overhead projectors, to the rapidly emerging computer-based technology of compact disks (CDs), internet downloads, and computer simulations. The intriguing aspect of the geo-teaching transition is that classroom educators are increasingly moving back and forth across this zone with relative ease, while their students transit with little or no recognition that anything is other than normal!


Teachers are under growing pressure to utilize a wider range of instructional resources. These new materials facilitate the movement across this geotransition zone using content rich and standards-aligned learning activities. It is now common to find textbooks with accompanying compact discs that replicate the actual hard copy, and worksheets that require students to utilize materials from an electronic source. However, it is more challenging to locate materials that present the same conceptually rich content in print and compact disc formats that thus engage the students in the transfer of knowledge and skills from one context to another. This combination of print and CD materials is now available in two sources: ARGUS: Activities and Readings in the Geography of the United States (AAG, 1997), and ARGWorld: Activities and Resources in the Geography of the World (AAG, 2002). ARGUS is a collection of learning materials introducing the spatial perspective, with a focus on the United States. The collection includes an interactive CD-ROM, class activities, and supplemental material including transparencies, questions and answers, and bibliographic references. The materials are organized into following broad categories:

* Spatial Themes: Places, Regions, and Geographical Questions

* Population: Patterns of Settlement and Population Movement

* Economics: Patterns of Production, Consumption, and Trade

* Politics: Patterns Associated with Constitutional Government

* Environmental Issues: Resources and Risks

While ARGUS concentrates on the United States, the soon-to-be-released ARGWorld investigates the world. This package is an interactive CD and a set of related student activities. The CD will be suitable for classroom use with a projector as well as individual student use. Both the CD and the activities are issues-oriented. They make extensive use of original maps, remotely-sensed imagery, and links to relevant Web-sites and other sources of real-world geographic information. Each CD unit also features many photographs, interactive maps, and animated explanations of key concepts of scientific geographic analysis (AAG, 2003). The print copy and CDs for both projects will be published and distributed by Holt, Rhinehart, and Winston in 2003.

Although these hands-on, inquiry-based curriculum materials (print and CD) were developed to help teach geographic concepts at the secondary level, they are easily applicable to middle school grades as well. Both engage students in geographic issues with modeling problem-solving and analytical skills. The curriculum materials are aligned with Geography for Life, the national content standards in geography (Geography Education Standards Project, 1994). This alignment with the national standards is advantageous since it validates the significance of the project materials within the broad arena of "what students should know and be able to do." The availability in both hardcopy and CD formats permits similar conceptual content to be studied multiple ways. …