I’m always looking for new ways to grab student’s attention as I lead into a new unit or lesson, and when I come across something that’s both cool and has practical value, it’s sure to make it into heavy classroom rotation. I found such a site in Globe Genie thanks to one of the principals in my district that likes to share his discoveries.
Joe McMichael, a graduate student at MIT (an institution known for making really cool internet toys), has put together an interesting web app that lets you automagically teleport anywhere in the world using Google Maps. Now I know what you’re thinking, “big deal, Ben, I can already do that with Google Maps!” Yes, you can, but you have to go through that bothersome process of typing in a destination, and then putting up with all of the muckity-muck ads, reviews, and other stuff Google puts in there for you
Globe Genie take you anywhere in the world with one click of the “teleport” button, and the destination is chosen completely at random. One moment you may be looking at a pristine lake in Northern Sweden (see image above), and the next may take you to some large metropolis or cow pasture. The idea is just to play, to see where you can go, what you might find, and explore the globe one random click at a time. You can decide which continents you want to limit yourself to, and even share the location you’ve found via Twitter, Facebook, and then vote on the location.
I’m sure there’s some sort of diabolical research project behind all this to see how people use the tool, which places they decide to share, and how they vote, but for now I think it’s a great way to just get kids to explore the planet one photo at a time. You could use Globe Genie to visit a location, then have your students race to find the exact coordinates (geography), or perhaps be the first group to find 5 important cultural facts about the country. You could even use it as an engaging way to explore distance and time (mathematics); teleport to two locations, and time how long it took for the computer to find both. Then have the students find how far apart the two locations really are, and just how fast you would had to be traveling in order to make the distance in the time of two mouse clicks, or find out how long it would take in the real world on a jet, walking, or boat. Personally, I’d love to use it as a writing prompt to find interesting places, and then let the students use their imaginations to write about where it might be, or what sort of people might be behind the “lens” of the camera taking the photo.
However you decide to use it, it’s super easy to waste a good 10 or 15 minutes with it at the end of a long day of teaching