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Developing thoughtful world explorers : incorporating technology and active learning into a fifth-grade geography classroom


Although technology has rapidly created a more accessible world necessitating broader global understanding, geography knowledge has lagged far behind. Young students are becoming more familiar and comfortable with using technologies, such as computers, cell phones, and iPods; however, they are unable to locate sites of significant events that impact the world today. Virtually Traveling Europe (VTE) is an approach that addresses the need for improved geography understanding through incorporating technology in the classroom. VTE utilizes collaborative and active learning to engage students in a project-based curriculum. The ultimate goal of this approach is for students to gain an improved understanding of their place in the world and the relevance of geography to their lives. Additional goals include engaging students through technology, choice, collaboration, and authentic real- world applications of geography. In this study, students worked in groups to research a region of Europe using books, the internet, and Google Earth. Groups created a travel brochure with geographic, historical, cultural, and travel information about their European region, and the project culminated in student presentations about each group's region using Google Earth as a visual tool. VTE was implemented in a private school fifth-grade geography classroom. The data sources collected and analyzed included field notes, surveys, and student work. Evaluations of this data suggest that students were engaged in their study of Europe and that positive collaboration led to greater success. Google Earth had limitations as a research tool but great potential for presentations, and further studies into its classroom application are recommended

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