The Art of Map Making

From the BBC:

With the rise of smart phones, paper maps are among the many things that have seemingly lost their place in many of our lives. One man says relying so heavily on digital maps is detrimental to our geographic literacy.

Dave Imus works alone in his small farm house in rural Oregon, but he is one of the most prolific cartographers working in the US. The geographic illustrator says the way geography is taught in schools “bores even me”.

He says if we think about maps as art rather than science we’ll be able to relate better to our surroundings


video image capture (2 minute video, opens on BBC site)
video image capture (2 minute video, opens on BBC site)

He has a point: people with decent mental maps don’t do things like follow GPS to their deaths.

Global Migration Flow

Human migration has been happening for aeons.  The featured image of this post is a data visualization of the global flow of people.  This circular plot shows all global bilateral migration flows for the five-year period mid-2005 to mid-2010, classified into a set of ten world regions.

It was created by Nikola Sander, Guy J. Abel & Ramon Bauer, (February 2014), and is from their article, “Quantifying Global International Migration Flows.” (Science 343, no. 6178 (March 28, 2014): 1520–22. doi:10.1126/science.1248676.)  For an incredible interactive version, go to: and play with the different time periods.

The data visualization is terrific for getting a big-picture overview of human movement around the planet.  But there’s more to migration than just movement.

How do you teach about migration?  If you’re emphasizing geography, you could use WorldView Software’s World Geography, starting with materials such as Case Study: Human Geography that talks about push and pull factors in the abstract.  You could then move on to materials such as Case Study: Human Migration: Texas that gives concrete examples of the different waves of migration into the state, why they came, and how they changed the culture and landscape.

If you’re emphasizing history, there’s a wide range of examples, from the paleolithic migrations in World History A, Chapter 1: The Beginning of Civilization through to World History B, Internet Project: The Changing Faces of Europe.  Again, you can be very abstract and big-picture in your approach, or you can try a more targeted and personalized approach that puts an individual face on the data.  A great place to get migrants’ stories is from UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (scroll down to “Refugee Voices”).

Another way to humanize the subject is to seek out and interview migrants in your community.  For pointers on how to go about such a project, check out the The Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide.  You and your students could create a valuable community resource with such a record!

BulbgraphOnOffHave students in your flipped classroom complete the study questions while you’re there to assist and discuss the mini-lesson answers.

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All Hail the Conquering Stick Figure: A Chat with Greek Myth Comix

Laura Jenkinson at Greek Myth Comix chats with us about teaching — and illustrating — the Classics.

Source: All Hail the Conquering Stick Figure: A Chat with Greek Myth Comix

[A great way to teach world history too — and just think of the fun your students will have with the post-lesson assessment you can assign: draw your own comic!]

Virtual Reality Starter Kit

There are several different varieties of virtual reality (VR) now.   A recent Knight Foundation report called “Viewing the Future,” defined them this way: “‘virtual reality’…creates environments that allow people to be “present” in an alternative environment; ‘augmented reality,’ which starts with the real world and overlays virtual objects and information; and ‘spherical’ or ‘360-degree’ video, which captures an entire scene in which the viewer can look up, down and around.” (An older worldviewsoftware’s blog post about using augmented reality for education is available here.)

While the report focused on VR’s effect on journalism, VR has finally reached a price point where it is within reach of the classroom.  The immersive qualities of VR can make it a natural for empathetic storytelling, so why not help your students make a VR project instead of a video? There are just a few things to keep in mind.

First thing to recognize is that the VR itself is different from other visual media such as video and graphics.  This blog from graduate journalism students exploring VR contains lots of tips about perspective, angles, and other techniques that they have experimented with.  The second thing is a theme from the blog: it’s especially interesting to note that they keep finding a deeper message: the story’s the thing!  In fact, one of the most popular VR apps in the Google Play Store is Storytelling: Chair In A Room, by Ryan Bousfield, but horror stories are not my thing, so I didn’t download it to try it — I’d recommend trying the official Star Wars app’s Jakku Spy story instead.

Third is a reminder to keep it short — VR is still disorienting, and if a story is too long viewers may become nauseous.  According to this article, “Symptoms such as nausea are caused when the brain receives visual cues that clash with sensory information received from the ears’ vestibular system, which aids balance.”  This problem may have been fixed (.pdf) experimentally by researchers, but it will take time to roll out to users.

Finally, there’s already a wide range of tools available.  Google/Alphabet has put a lot of effort into creating the infrastructure around VR, and emphasizing democratic accessibility.  The featured image is a Google Cardboard VR viewer, by Wikimedia Commons user: othree, and is made primarily out of — yes — cardboard, which you fold up and drop your phone into.  (There’s some other stuff too, like a couple of lenses, two magnets, a rubber band, and some velcro.)  The first lesson plan can be to actually make the viewers you’ll be using, either from scratch or from the parts.  Other lesson plans can focus on students’ experimentation of techniques, storyboarding ideas, and the final product itself.


Examples: YouTube 360 Videos

What will your students create?

BulbgraphOnOffChronological questions test students’ ability to sequentially order information, placing it in historical context.

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Data Dive: Update on World Indicators

Are you using data in your class to investigate the world?   One excellent source of data, the World Bank’s Databank, has just re-vamped their interface.  To find out what they’ve done, click the image to go to their video:

screen capture of what's new video
The Databank’s interface has changed.

Some highlights:

  1. Two main panels: one for variable selection/editing, one for preview
  2. Variables can be filtered
  3. Standard visualizations can be created within Databank

You can save and share your reports online, and you can also export your data to work with it in other programs.  For a more in-depth video tutorial on how to use Databank, click here.

Explore the datasets, then take a turn at creating charts, graphs, tables, or maps with them.  For tips on how to create effective data visualizations, see the tutorials Data Visualizations: Charts, Graphs, and Tables, Data Visualizations: Maps, and Data Visualizations: Use and Misuse. (All WorldView programs have these tutorials.)

BulbgraphOnOffUse the Resource filter to see all the program’s materials grouped by type; great for students who need to practice a particular skill.

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