Teaching Geography With Google Maps

Google Maps
Travelers aren’t born, they’re raised.

Last week we talked about how to connect with your kids while you’re away traveling. There are plenty of ways to get them interested in this great big world of ours while you’re both at home too. One of the best and easiest ways to fire their imagination is with Google Maps.

Like many good ideas in our family, my seven-year-old son thought of it first. He’s recently gotten into Internet Radio, especially Tonik Radio out of Dublin. Tonik and most other stations show a Google map with pointers to where their listeners are. I find it kind of freaky that our house is clearly indicated on a map for all the other listeners to see. The kid just thinks it’s cool. He’s of a generation that has always known the Information Age and thus has a whole different attitude towards privacy.

So as he listens to House and Trance he surfs the globe, looking up where the other Tonik Radio listeners are–the cluster of fans in Dublin, the farmer in Israel, and the guy in the apartment block in Sterlitimak, Russia. Zooming in with the power of satellite photography, he can see what far-off countries look like from above. In some places he can even use Google Street View.

Once he gets bored hunting down his fellow radio fans, he starts exploring the Terra Incognita of the spaces between the points. This week he conducted a close-up survey across the Pacific and happened upon the Johnston Atoll, a lonely little former U.S. military base that I had never heard of.

I also show him places where I’ve been. He got an aerial view of the amusement park in Baghdad where I ate mazgouf. When the satellite took its photo, a small plane was flying over the riverside park and left its shadow on the water of the Tigris. A week later I came into my office and he’d found it again. He’s learning to navigate.

I can even show him my past, hovering with him above the Danish farm where I was an exchange student back in my teens. I brought him up the country lane to the nearest highway and its bus stop, the same route I rode with my bike when I wanted to go to Slagelse, the nearest town. The hedge and ditch where I hid my bike before I caught the bus are still there.

Strangely, this obsession with the computer hasn’t killed his interest in regular maps or his light-up globe. So if you have a young kid who’s curious about the world, try surfing Google Maps. It’s more than a bit Orwellian, but it’s a lot of fun.

Image courtesy Google Maps, copyright 2011.

Daily deal – 8GB Slacker Wi-Fi Internet radio player for $70

My daily deal for today is for the 8GB Slacker G1 Wi-Fi Internet Radio Player (isn’t that a mouthful!). This Wi-Fi enabled MP3/Internet Radio player connects to the Slacker music service, and refreshes your player with a new batch of music any time you want. We’ve taken a closer look at the newest generation Slacker player, and were so impressed that it became one of our top 25 travel products of the year.

This first generation player has all the same features of the Slacker G2 we reviewed, but comes in a slightly larger unit. You’ll still get access to Slacker.com, and you can still load your own music on the device.

The player is on sale at Woot.com, which means it could be out of stock at any moment, so if you are interested in a Wi-Fi enabled 8GB music player, don’t wait too long! Shipping is just $5.

Daily deal – Slacker 4GB Wi-Fi Internet Radio for $79.99

My daily deal for today is for the Slacker 4GB Wi-Fi Internet Radio. I’ve reviewed Slacker here before, and their portable player was selected as one of the best travel products of 2008.

The player on sale today is their previous generation unit, and while it may look nothing like the version I reviewed, it does offer the same functionality and of course, it uses the fantastic Slacker.com online music service.

This player normally retails for about $150, but buy.com has it on sale today for just $79.99 with free shipping.

Included with the player is a charger, USB cable and a pair of headphones. The basic Slacker music service is free to use, but for the best experience, you’ll want to upgrade to Slacker Premium.

If you are ordering this as a Christmas gift, then I suggest upgrading to 2-day shipping, you’ll find the buy.com Holiday shipping schedule here.