Computerized simulations for introductory geography instruction: mental mapping

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Virginia Tech


The study of geography is an important component of a university education. While computer-aided instruction (CAI) techniques offer good means of satisfying the rapidly growing demand for instruction in geography, traditional approaches to tutor construction appear to be of little use in meeting the special requirements of an application based on complex graphical manipulation. This project focuses on the design and implementation of a Mental Mapping Module which explores the mental maps of students by asking them to locate various places in the world by pointing at positions on an outline map drawn on the computer screen. The computer then warps country borders in relation to errors in placement to show the student’s “mental map” of that country. The module also gathers data from students on their perceptions of place characteristics such as population size, climate and cost of housing. The interactive graphics design approach for the module is implemented using the X Window System, which allows a “point-and-click” interface with graphical and textual cues to initiate operations. The Mental Mapping Module forms one of the six computerized laboratory modules applicable to several introductory geography courses that have been proposed in project GeoSim: CAI software for the teaching of introductory geography.