Appifying Geographic Education: Not quite there

Wired.com touts the TouchWorld app as a tool to help “learn World Geography,” while I agree with the article’s sentiment that “we need more education in [G]eography in this country” I’m not quite sure that the TouchWorld app is the answer. To summarize the app, it allows the user to take a Geography quiz of identifying countries, continents, and capitals with the possibility being redirected to their wikipedia page.

Pretty simplistic. Referring back to the proposed model of Geographic Education (and reproduced below), this is (at best) very basic foundational stuff that kindergartens should already be familiar with. Think I’m joking? Taking a look at the Texas Education Agency‘s (see link to downloadable PDF) learning outcomes for kindergarteners shows that they are expected to be able understand the “concept of location” and “the physical and human characteristics of place”. Of course, we know that neither of these is really associated with Geography in the popular imagination.

Geographic Knowledge and Education (via ME!)

Geographic Knowledge and Education (via ME!)

While I’m for the popularization and dissemination of geographic data, because that’s essentially what TouchWorld does, I’m not that excited. As all Geographers are keenly aware, the profession is stigmatised as simply being rote memorization of place names and locations, essentially what TouchWorld is. I appreciate the integration of wikipedia into the app, that at least gives the veneer of being something beyond spatial memorization.

Had I the capability to make an educational app it would follow combine aspects of a Geography Bee and map-based locations. This would at least take education, for young adults and adults who primarily use phones anyway, out of simple geographic data to geographic information. For instance, “identify the countries from which the Gurka migrate from, and to, for military service”. The user could then click on Nepal and the United Kingdom. From a physical geography perspective one could ask “identify the countries through which the Nile Rivers flow”. Though this format would still require users, students, to learn and be able to find the location of geographic features, it would also promote awareness of the cross-cutting nature of earthly phenomena.

Geographers know that few things on Earth’s surface are confined by the boundaries set by states. To me apps like TouchWorld only reinforce this misconception, though a step in the right direction more should it be done. If someone has the capability to write the app I would happily devise a questions for the project.

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