Google Maps for Curiosity

There’s just something about Google Maps which is down-right compelling: the visceral, on the ground images in street view, the zooming from hyper-local to global, zipping from Germany to Tonga in seconds, perusing the halls of the greatest museums on earth, seeing the sun light up half the world in real time, walking down a street, craning your virtual neck left and right as you take in the sights. It really is an amazing tool for both setting up learning experiences and immersions, and as an open platform for adventure, exploring, and curiosity building.

This term we are introducing the concept of being “Asia Aware” to link with our weekly Mandarin lessons. Google Maps provided just the introduction. I started zoomed into our school, then slowly zoomed out, bit by bit, as the world got larger and larger. Eventually New Zealand became a little speck of land in the bottom right hand corner as we focused upon the cluster of countries that Asia comprises. The students were transfixed as we traveled the earth, zooming across oceans and space and time. It was perfect for illustrating the scale of the world, and our small size and position compared with most other countries.

We talked about the countries in Asia we could see and what we knew about them. We cross-referenced what we knew with statistics on the current and future make-up of New Zealand (it turns out, nearly 1 in 5 children in NZ will be of Asian heritage by 2021). We talked about the value of diversity – how it enriches and deepens our understandings of the world, can bring new perspectives, and help spark creative new ideas. We reflected on the quote “My world is your world”, globalisation, and the effect of the internet.

The students then had time to explore Asia. To follow their nose. To take the road less travelled. They were tasked with coming up with as many wonderings as the they could wonder, based on their adventures and what they could see. The students were transfixed and excited and bubbling over as they explored downtown Shanghai, temples in Japan, beaches in Thailand, rivers in Laos, islands in the Philippines, mountains in Tibet, jungles in Vietnam, apartment blocks in Kuala Lumpur, and deserts in Mongolia.

Here are a few of the wonderings the students came up with – great prompts into learning about Asia for the next few weeks ~

I wonder if everyone lives in apartment buildings?

I wonder how come that guy on the scooter is not wearing a helmet?

I wonder how old that temple is and if people still go there?

I wonder why they need so many buses?

I wonder what that sign says?

I wonder if their McDonalds food is the same as ours?

I wonder if people still live in that jungle?

I wonder if any people have back yards at their houses?

Giving students the room and tools to develop this kind of curious thinking is important. It helps develop an active, always on, always thinking mind – one which is not content to idle through life, consuming and passive. Curiosity is a key disposition for lifelong learning, and what’s fantastic about these modern days is that we have the ability to both fan the flames of wonderment as well as satisfy that wonderment via the information and tools at our disposal.

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