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This lesson will incorporate technology into a process that is designed to improve a student’s understanding of geography and their ability to locate landmarks on a map. More specifically, this project will use Google Earth to assist students in identifying the location of all states and some of the cities within the United States. In addition, student will also gain an understanding of how to search out and locate other various other landmarks and statistical data using Google Earth. These skills are transferable to use on a traditional map.


Part A: Intent- The Ideal

One problem that many teachers face today is that of educating their students in the area of geography. This includes ensuring that all students know the physical location of the fifty states that make up our country and the various cities within them. Traditionally geography lessons tend to be based more upon memorization than critical thinking and deep rooted understanding. This type of learning does not lead to long term and insightful knowledge, rather to quickly forgotten information that students tend to find boring and repetitive. One way to improve student learning and retention is through the use of such motivational tools as computers and the internet. The same holds true when teaching geography to students.
The overall goal of this project is to increase student’s knowledge of cities within the United States while having the ability to locate each of the states. Such knowledge includes unemployment statistics and median household income. This task will be achieved with the aide of Google Earth. This internet based program will be used to locate various geographic locations inside the United States and related information about them.

The ideal would be for all students to have a strong background in geography and map skills while having a better understanding of the economic situation here in the United States. One way to achieve this goal is to use Google Earth as a motivational tool rolling technology into a more traditional geography lesson. Thus, “creating a resource that combines a new technology with a time-tested instructional approach” (Boss & Krauss 2007) It has been well established that such technologies tend to motivate most students and can be directed to meet the learning requirements of a classroom full of students with varying types of intelligences. Siegle stated that Google Earth, along with its supplemental 3D drawing program Sketch-up, “will appeal to gifted learners of varying ages” (p.26). Teachers can easily use Google Earth in various ways to “transform a standard identification activity into an exciting learning experience that motivates students, incorporates practical skills in technology, and enhances students' spatial thinking skills” (Martinez et al., 2009).

The use of such cognitive strategies as linking images embedded within Google Earth to related words, such as state, city names and economic data, can be a valuable tool when attempting to influence a student’s recall of information over the long term (Gagne’, p. 50). Such intellectual skills “enable individuals to interact with their learning environment in terms of symbols or conceptualizations” (Gagne’, p 49). Thus, students are able to match current learning with prior or current experiences they are going through.

Part B: Gathered information- The Reality

In a perfect world all students would have achieved the ability to physically locate all of the fifty states on a map and know a little something about them as well. This expectation is supported by the Minnesota Department of Education clearly in their statement, “for students to be successful contributors to a democratic society, all individuals need to have an understanding of geography” (p. 42). The article then goes on to state that a “geographically literate person knows where important things are, why they are located in those places and the significance of the locational patterns of the world. Furthermore, they comprehend the nature and significance of multiple connections between people and places around the world” (Minnesota Department of Education, p. 42). To achieve this goal Minnesota has adopted standards that require students to reach a minimum level of map skills. Minnesota begins this learning with classes such as “Reshaping the Nation and the Emergence of Modern America” (Minnesota Department of Education, p. 16).

Unfortunately, in the real world student’s map skills are not always as in-depth as one would expect. Not only are students map skills less than expected, they tend to know little about other U.S. states other than their own. In one recent study “suggests that increased emphasis on reading and mathematics has led to a decrease in the instructional time made available for social studies, civics, and geography, a trend especially evident in high-minority schools” (Kendall, p. 4). With this said, it is important that student-teacher time be as efficient and productive as possible when it come to the subject of geography. In yet another study a multiple choice test was used to gage fourth, eighth and twelfth grade student’s understanding of geography. In the test students were rated according to three achievement levels: Basic, Proficient, and Advanced.

Supporting Statistics
This test showed that “two percent of all fourth graders, 4 percent of eighth graders, and 1 percent of twelfth graders achieved the Advanced level. Nineteen percent of fourth graders, 26 percent of eighth graders, and 23 percent of twelfth graders attained the Proficient level. Fifty-three percent of fourth graders, 44 percent of eighth graders, and 47 percent of twelfth graders reached the Basic level. Twenty-six percent of fourth graders, 26 percent of eighth graders, and 29 percent of twelfth-graders scored below the Basic level” (Stoltman, p. 3). Stoltman then went on to conclude “while student performance in geography since 1994 has generally improved, a large proportion of students in 2001 did not reach either the Basic or Proficient levels and did not demonstrate achievement in the essential content and skills in geography judged necessary for responsible citizenship” (p. 4). With such a high level of students only achieving basic or even lower scores there is a clear need for improvement in this core educational category.

Learner Analysis
The essential prerequisites of this learning activity include basic computer and internet use, generalized map skills and a basic understanding of the economic factors that affect unemployment. The supportive prerequisites that should be investigated include a positive attitude towards technology, computers, the internet, basic map reading skills and a "want" to further their education once they graduate high school. While these prerequisites should be attained by students before the lesson begins, some can be achieved during the instructional process as well.

The group of students that undertake this project will be of high school age (near graduation) and include both male and female students. This age range will tend to have prior experience with the types of technologies required in this lesson. To ensure this each student will have gone through a basic keyboarding class and have spent time in the computer lab prior to this lesson. Student will also have had at one basic economics course and basic map skills learned from previous courses in their educational career. In additional, most children at this age have a positive attitude toward technology, especially computers. This attitude will be beneficial to the class’ moral and motivational levels.

Required technologies
All the while the physical factors in the instructional environment are in place. The lab not only has one computer for each student, it also offers broadband internet access and has the latest version of Google Earth installed. Some of the constraints that we will be up against include the lack of the pull down U.S. map that is used in most of the classrooms. Even so, the computers will more than make up for this loss.

Teacher's Experience
My background includes nine years as a network administrator. I also have extensive experience using the Google Earth platform in an effective manner. This includes using this internet based program in an educational environment.

Part C: Summarization & Goals

Just 25 years ago not a single state had geography or social studies mandated education standards. In a great leap forward, a 2003 survey showed that there are only two states left that do not have such state standards (Daley, p. 3). Even so, we must find new and more creative ways of teaching geography to students in order to keep this movement pushing forward. It is also important for students to learn relevant information, such as economic factors, about the states as well. This information will become very useful once the student graduates and become a part of the work force.While the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001 stated that all “core subjects must be taught by teachers who are highly qualified”, we must give educators the tools they need to perform their jobs, especially if we expect them to meet state standards (Daley, p. 5) Technology is one such tool that can improve student learning while increasing motivational levels. Siegle stated that tools, such as Google Earth, allowed geography lessons to take on a new life “providing students with a window to the planet via their computer screens” (Siegle, p. 1).

My instructional solution is to use Google Earth and other web based sites to teach student better map skills and related statistical data. Students will work side-by-side in a lab environment learning the locations of various landmarks such as various cities, and other popular attractions of historical significance.

To achieve this goal student will be taught how to install and operate Google Earth. They will then be asked to search for cities that are personally relevant to them in order to introduce prior and knew knowledge into the lesson. The cities they will be asked to search for will include potential college or trade school locations. Students will be asked to define a number of colleges of their choice, location them in Google Earth and then learn about local economic factors that will affect them if they move there. The incorporation of the following “driving question” will work as a motivational tool increasing student’s desire the complete the tasks asked of them: “How does the area we live in affect how we live.” “This use of technology forms the bridge into real-world relevance and creates a more authentic learning experience for students” (Slaughter, p. 17). This would not only help to improve intrinsic motivational levels, but long term memory as well. Slaughter goes on to state “Teachers who are willing to go the extra mile to personalize the education of students and provide a rigorous and engaging curriculum are rewarded by greater student connection and gains” (Slaughter, p. 18).

Part D: References

Needs Assessment References


After completing this course students will be able to:
1) Locate a specific location on a map when given it’s address
2) Locate all of the States within the Continental United Stated
3) Use Google Earth to learn more about the economy of a particular state or county
4) Use Google Earth as a geography learning tool to increase map skills


Course Purpose
This course will use Google Earth to help improve student’s geography skills and understanding of our county’s economy. Once completed, students will be able to locate each of the fifty states along with various other U.S. cities on a map.

Learning Outcomes
1) Understand how to use a map to find a state, city or other location
2) Understand how to use Google Earth to find a state, city or other location
3) Understand how to use Google Earth to search for various landmarks such as buildings
4) Understanding of how images can improve learning and recall of information
5) Understand how local economies can affect our society and employment opportunities

Prerequisite Skills
Essential prerequisites of this learning activity include:
1) Basic computer skills
2) Ability to open and operate a web browser
3) Understanding of basic internet terms and use
4) Basic map skills
5) Basic geography skills
6) Basic understanding of the economy
6) Computer, monitor, keyboard and mouse
7) Internet Access
8) Web Browser
9) Rights to install a program locally to the computer/laptop

Supportive prerequisites of this learning activity include:
1) A positive attitude towards technology, computers, the internet
2) A positive attitude towards geography
3) Open to learning new ideas and terms
4) Ability to work with others in a group setting
5) A positive attitude towards post-high school education


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