Yes, it’s time for another one of my “The Best….” lists. This one will highlight the websites I think are the best for teaching about geography.
As in my other lists, the criteria include that the sites don’t require any software download, and that they’re free, engaging, and accessible to English Language Learners.
I suspect that many will disagree with the fact that that Google Earth is not on my list. It’s not there because, one, it requires a download and, two, I just haven’t used it much. Yes, yes, I know there are tons of lessons and ideas about how to use it, and many teachers apparently teach with it very effectively. In fact, you can find many Google Earth resource links on my Teacher’s Page under Geography Teacher Resources. I’ve just never felt the potential benefit was worth spending my time trying to figure out how to use it.
My opinion might change, though, since I’ve read in more than one place that Google is planning on moving most of the capabilities of Google Earth to a browser-based application so that a download will not be required.
Here are my top picks for The Best Websites For Learning & Teaching Geography:
Number twelve is a very creative game called Scribble States. Players have to “connect the dots” with a virtual pencil, and then have to answer a multiple-choice question about which state (in the United States) they just drew. And the whole thing is timed, to boot!
Mapping Our World from Oxfam is a great series of animated and audio lesson on maps, and the accuracy and inaccuracy of their projections affect our view of the world. I’ve ranked this site number eleven.
Number ten is sort of a tie between three sites that are good reference sites for students to use when they’re researching different countries. One is Fact Monster- Countries. Another is DK Online World Desk Reference. For DK you have to get a password, but it’s free, quick and easy to do so. My students, and I, have found these two sites very informative and accessible. The third one, though, I believe is slightly better because it appears to have more up-to-date data and it includes images. It’s called the World Info Zone.
Eighth place is yet another tie between Zipskinny and HotPads. They both provide extensive demographic information about individual neighborhoods in the United States. Zipskinny presents in fairly straightforward text, while HotPads shows it more visually. You might find it useful to read my original posts about Zipskinny and HotPads to get a little more information on how the two compare with each other.
Mythic Journeys is number seven. You can see, hear and read animated tales about creation myths from around the world at this site. These will certainly help students learn about different cultures.
The Traveler IQ Challenge is probably going to be just about the most difficult map game you’ll ever play. But it’s a lot of fun, and there are “Challenges” from all parts of the world. I’ve ranked these games number six.
Community Walk is number five. Students can put many sites on a map with descriptions and images (which can easily be grabbed off the web). Students can use these to report on countries, describe field trips, and for numerous other mapping assignments. There are lots of these kinds of site, but I’ve found Community Walk to be the most accessible.
Placespotting is number four. Students are shown a spot on the map, and given a series of riddles to help them determine what it is. All these geographic riddles are user-generated, and students can create their own, too.
Nations Illustrated is number three. You can look at beautiful pictures from around the world individually or in a slideshow. Students can choose images to write about and send them as an E-Card. Links to the E-Card can then be posted on an online journal or blog.
There’s a tie for the second spot. Tripwiser and Yahoo Travel all allow students to learn about places and plan a trip to anywhere in the world, which they can then post on an online journal or blog. The sites require free registration, but it’s easy and quick. (In fact, since I originally wrote this post, many other similar sites have cropped-up. You can find them all at The Best Sites Where Students Can Plan Virtual Trips).
Finally, the number one website for learning and teaching Geography is…. the Social Studies page at I Know That. It has tons of different kinds of map games that are informative and fun. Once you click on each game, an annoying pop-up asks if you want to register. But all you have to do is click “maybe later” and it goes away.
10 Websites For Virtual Sightseeing With Travel Videos is a nice list from The Make Use of blog.
At the BBC’s Dimensions site you identify an event or object (The Great Wall Of China, a battle, etc.), then type in a zipcode, and then it will overlay the dimensions of that event or object to the zip code you picked.
D-Maps has a huge collection of map outlines to print for class use.
The Guardian newspaper has begun to place links to their many travel videos on a Google Maps mashup, which makes them much more accessible.
This Would Be A Nice Geography Assessment is a post I’ve written.
National Geographic has unveiled a new website for teachers — National Geographic Education.
I’ve previously highlighted Glencoe’s online videos for social studies, but have now discovered that offer many more free resources to support all their social studies textbooks. They’re useful even if you don’t use their books, though, and they’re freely available. You can start off at their main Social Studies site or at their main site for all their textbooks. From there, it’s easy to navigate to their U.S. History, World History and Geography books. They all have links to videos, “in-motion animations” like this one, interactive maps like this (I especially like these maps because they offer audio support for the text), and different games (I especially like their categorization activities).
Daily life in May around the world is a series of photos from The Sacramento Bee.
Maps Of The World has lots of free printable…maps.
The New York Times Learning Network has published an excellent post called All Over the Map: 10 Ways to Teach About Geography.
Urban Observatory lets you compare three major cities of your choice from around the world and map data about them in a number of areas (population density, open space, etc.). You can read more about it at Wired.
Here’s an example showing traffic at the same time of day:
40 maps that explain the world is a great collection from the Washington Post that may be the best geography site of the year. It links to another site called 40 Maps They Didn’t Teach You In School that has a number of other good maps. However, that second site also includes a few maps with topics and language that wouldn’t be appropriate for the classroom.
Google has just created a special site for the Street Views they’ve done in remote and/or unusual sites, including Burj Khalifa, Iqaluit, Mt. Everest, the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon Basin and the Kennedy Space Center. More are on the way.
Let me know if you think I’ve missed any particularly good geography sites.
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