Many students consider geography to be a difficult subject. For some kids, it's a boring and dry subject. For other kids, it is too difficult to simply memorize capitals, cities and flags of various places around the world.
Teachers and parents often try to come up with fun ways to help teach and test students on geography facts. Unfortunately, it is one topic where many educators fail.
In 2006, National Geographic
conducted a poll and found that only about half of U.S. Students were able to answer all of the quiz questions correctly. Only 37 percent of students could find Iraq on a world map.
There are solutions that educators can use to make geography more exciting for students, to help accelerate the learning of geography, and to help educators more easily test and gauge the geography knowledge of students.
Those solutions involve using computer technology and games to make geography more interesting for students, and to present geographic facts to students in a format that is easier to remember.
Seterra is an interesting Windows-based application that does just that. It is offered as a free game, but it actually serves as a useful educational tool for both the classroom and the home.
Running Seterra on Your PC
When you first run Seterra on your computer, it will become apparent very quickly just how thorough the software is. It is filled with an abundant supply of facts and images about geography from all areas of the world.
From the main page, you can choose a major continent or region, such as the Americas, Asia or Europe, and then select what smaller region you would like to be tested on.
If you choose one of the country tests, you'll be presented by a map of that region of the world, and then you'll be challenged to identify the correct dot that represents that country or region.
It's clear that the software is best used as a tool to reinforce geography lessons that have already been learned in the classroom. It is not so much a tool used to evaluate a student's progress, but instead as a resource to help students memorize those facts in a way that doesn't feel like memorization at all.
3 Tries and You're Out
The nice thing about the software is that rather than just testing students in a one-chance-and-you're-out manner, students actually have an opportunity to guess several times before getting the question wrong.
For example, when the software asks students to identify the city of Bern, students can click on three dots on the map - one at a time. If all attempts are incorrect, the software will then show the student where the correct location of the city is, by highlighting the dot in red. This means that the student got the answer wrong, but at the same time they are taught the correct answer.
This approach enhances memorization, the next time the student is asked to locate that city.
Correct and Incorrect Answers
As each session goes on, the maps "remember" which answers were correct or incorrect. Each correct answer is highlighted in yellow, while each incorrect answer is shown in red.
This provides teachers with an easy way to gauge the progress of each student just by walking behind the student and scanning the map. The more red answers there are, the more assistance that student requires to learn those world facts.
Testing Flag Knowledge
The ability to identify countries and regions of the world based on the flag for that area is an important geography skill that students should learn early on.
Flag knowledge helps during travel, while keeping up with current events, and in many careers. Seterra includes test modules that ask students to identify flags. The test procedure is very similar to the map-based tests. Correct answers are highlighted in yellow, incorrect in red, and students get 3 chances to get the correct answer.
For teachers that prefer text-based quizzes, those are included in Seterra as well. Seterra also includes an innovative grading algorithm that increases or reduces the student's overall score based on how many guesses it takes to get the correct answer.
The application will remember the highest student scores so that students will have incentive to compete with each other and make it onto the "High scores" scoreboard.
By far, the most useful and interesting parts of this freeware application are the map tests. The quality of the maps are excellent, and using the maps are very easy and simple to learn.
Tests are sometimes easy, and others are sometimes much more elaborate, depending what region of the world you are studying. For example, some of the tests on U.S. Cities include a fair number of dots on the map for students to identify.
The application includes material that would be suitable for students that are more advanced, as well as students just getting started with Geography. For example, the large world map is an excellent starting point, where students will be tasked with identifying the major continents of the globe.
If you click on Options, you'll find that the software can be slightly modified to display the test menu on the side of the screen you prefer. It also allows you to disable sound effects and music.
Seterra also includes a growing community of educators, parents and students that are fans of the software. You can find that community on the Seterra Facebook page
, where you'll also find frequent updates about the latest software modifications and other tips and helpful resources.
Seterra on Facebook
Overall, the Seterra software can serve as an important element of any classroom where geography is being taught. The graphical, real-time display of student progress makes it easy for teachers to quickly gauge how well students are performing. The game-like testing process and the scoreboards serve to make geography entertaining for students of any level.
Give Seterra a try and see if it enhances how students learn geography in your classroom.
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