Middle School Geography Curriculum Adds Reality, Virtuality to Mix

Pearson has launched myWorld Geography, a new middle school curriculum designed to let students take a virtual step into the shoes of teens on the other side of the world.

myWorld Geography includes "myStory ambassadors," which offers illustrated stories and videos that are meant to help make the subject far more engaging by adding a strong dose of humanity to the maps, facts, and general descriptions of regions and people. The "ambassadors" feature is one of several components of myWorld's interactive digital program, which also includes a virtual travel digital game, a student journal, several hands-on activities, and myWorld in Numbers, a component of each chapter that allows teachers to make figures and statistics more accessible to middle-schoolers and help them understand how to apply data to decision making.

The goal of these features, said a spokesperson for Pearson, is to expand students' social studies skills beyond mapping and graphing by integrating 21st century skills such as innovation, collaboration, information gathering and analysis, and media and technology skills, into the print and digital components.

The curriculum's instruction method aligns to the Wiggins-McTighe "Understanding by Design" model, which converts content standards and outcome statements into question form and then creates assignments aimed at answering these "essential questions."

One technology-based approach the curriculum takes is the Online Travel Assignment, a game-like feature that takes students on a journey through certain regions and time periods to complete an assignment based on an essential question. Users gather and analyze information by watching video interviews and narratives, working through simulations and animated challenges, and examining maps and data. They record their observations on a PDA using a "tracker" application and then submit their completed assignments to their teachers online.

Students and teachers can explore the features of myWorld Geography by registering for a 30-day free trial here. The program will be available for purchase in January 2010.

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Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.