Friday, August 15, 2008

Future of Geography Teaching

Students can now share a virtual teaching space with a map on the floor, when posed a questions such as 'where would you put your house' they vote by moving their avatar to their chosen place on the map.

Predicting the future is a notoriously dumb thing to do but here goes: Stefan of Ogle Earth points out a development importing Google Maps into Second life (the second half of the post) talking about some of Eric Hackathorn's work. I predict its a development that is surely something we are going to see much more of in education:

Screen shot of Big Island Hawaii imported into Second Life with my KMZ layers imported in on top. You can see my avatar standing mid island.

Real Life Teaching: I already use Google Earth in a lesson where I teach students about the volcanoes of Hawaii and then get them to decide where they would put a house on big island Hawaii to avoid being burnt down by lava. I project Google Earth onto the wall and use a grid marked on the floor so that students can stand on the ground in relation to where they would put their house on the map.

Second Life Teaching: Of course in Second Life its possible to project the map onto the floor much easier than in real life and this is what the screen shot above shows. You can see my avatar standing in the middle of the Google Maps generated map over which I've loaded a kmz file showing, amongst other things, 3 active volcanoes*. It would be possible to run a teaching session in Second Life mimicing my real life teaching but with the advantage of a map on the floor.

Not there yet: In real life this technique has proved popular with teachers and students. Unfortunately, in second life Eric's development is still too clunky to be used for real but I agree with Stefan, you are going to see a lot more things like this in the future when the technology gets quicker, slicker and easier to use. At the moment the social space is provided by Second Life and the maps by KMZ file and Google Maps but the idea - mashing up maps and a virtual avatar space - could be delivered by other applications just as well.

*strictly Pu`u`O`o isn't a separate volcano from Kilauea which are both marked on the map.

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