Using technology in the geography classroom

Author: Alan Parkinson
Published: 08/09/2020

Using technology to support learning

When your job as a geography teacher is to introduce young people to the world and help them understand it, it makes sense to use the available technology to show them the world, map the world, visualise the world, connect with the world and tell the story of the world.

Classroom activities should take students beyond the way they use their phones for social media or their laptop for gaming. Geographical tools such as GIS and VR offer creative opportunities for exploration, and GIS is a tool which offers the potential for future employment and a way in which to analyse data for fieldwork, as well as answering some of the world’s important challenges.

Young people are often keen to explore new technologies, but the teacher’s role is to see the pedagogical value in them and appreciate how they might be helpful in developing students’ geographical capabilities and subject knowledge. It is important to remind ourselves, as teachers, that often we act as a ‘gatekeeper’ between students and technology and, as such, we can decide to open as well as close the gate.

Here are five ideas from this resource:

  1. Google Earth revolution. When Google Earth launched in 2005 it changed the game for Geography teachers, allowing them to ‘fly’ to different places in the world. Download Google Earth Pro for free and you can measure areas, plot fieldwork data and create 3D landscape cross-profiles.
  2. Free GIS resources. UK schools can access a free version of ESRI’s ArcGIS Online, a browser based piece of software that enables powerful GIS analysis to be carried out, and fieldwork data to be plotted. A great variety of free GIS resources and the Survey123 app for fieldwork can be downloaded from the site.
  3. Virtual Reality (VR) is easy to use with the aid of a cheap headset and access to Google Expeditions app. Digital Explorer have also created VR content for their expeditions to the Arctic and coral reefs.
  4. What are the items people buy as their income increases? Visit Dollar Street (by Gapminder) to find out how lifestyle changes with income. Use the dropdown boxes to browse what people own as their income increases in countries around the world.
  5. What’s beneath your feet? Use the British Geological Survey’s Map Viewer to find out, or download their iGeology or MySoil apps for more detail. The BGS website also offers useful downloads such as colouring sheets. Rock on! 

You can see all 20 teaching ideas in this downloadable resource.

Alan Parkinson runs the LivingGeography blog and is on Twitter @GeoBlogs.


Alan Parkinson

Alan Parkinson is a Head of geography, writer of textbooks and children's books and has worked for the Geographical Association in curriculum development. He is a chartered Geographer and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and has won a number of awards for his writing and innovative teaching.