Getting to Know the World More with Maps

I’m saving some web links and resources in case I’ll need them later on for a world geography class. But you might be interested in them, too, so here’s a rundown:

Political Pangaea

First off, is the excellent visualization of Pangaea by the Portuguese author of this idea blog stash: Mi Laboratorio de Ideas. What’s unique about this map is that he has overlain existing political territories over the supercontinent. True, it’s anachronistic, but it also makes the past relatable. I can already imagine how exciting it would be to tackle this in a class. I would ask students to compare this map of Pangaea with a current political map and infer the trajectory of continental plate movements. They can even project what the next supercontinent will look like.


Pangea


Overlap Maps

This one’s a neat online tool which does what the name suggests, it overlaps maps. For example, here’s an overlap of the Philippines and Finland, just to see the difference between my country and this leading country in education, at least, in terms of territory:

Philippines and Finland Overlap Map
This tool can help kids can compare and contrast the breadth and size of countries, water bodies, man-made and natural features, and even wildfires. We can use this tool for other sorts of analyses, too. For example, we can use this tool along with economic figures to investigate whether the size of a country’s territory has a relationship to its wealth. Start exploring overlaps here.

Map Projections

Now while we’re on the topic of maps, one important caveat that I think teachers should provide students is the inexorable distortions or inaccuracies in maps. While this may seem trivial, let’s consider how so much of the present global political economy is hinged on perception. Take for example, do you realize how big the African continent really is?

African Continent's true size
I didn’t know I had a misguided perception of Africa until I saw this visualization about a month back. If you’re just like me, do your students a favor and head on over to io9’s post on The True Size of AfricaIt was only until I read this post on Africa that the effect of map projections on our perception of the world hit home. So I went and schooled myself a bit on map projections.

I started with this tongue-in-cheek take on the different projections. I didn’t know there were so many!

Here are the serious stuff:

Here’s an article on what map projections distort and here are types of projections and their distortion patterns.

I hope you find these resources useful. Let’s remember that by using the tools available to us now, we, geography teachers can help balance learners’ views about the world.

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