Technology has radically changed how we see the earth and how we present information about the planet to children. For centuries, our view was limited to the immediate surroundings and abstract, static representations of other places. Now, technology lets us see much of the world in real time and observe how people work and play. These geography apps are real world tools that show children how the world connects and what is happening across the planet.
There are many geography apps in game formats, designed specifically for kids. Games are great for memorizing countries, states, and capitals, but real information captures the interest of children in a different way. Real information has a context and a purpose. It is not so much about labeling places as about how people interact with those places.
Below you will find several types of real world geography apps that appeal to kids and give them a better understanding of geographical concepts. They include geography apps for tracking flights and ships, photography apps and a variety of apps related to time and weather. I have included links to specific products, but there are many similar alternatives. Some of these geography apps have associated websites that let kids access the information from a computer, too.
An important note; these applications are NOT designed specifically for children. If you get the free versions, there are ads. There may be in-app purchases. The apps could include links that can take kids online. These are real world tools and, as with other tools, children should be supervised when they are using them.
With time, these apps help children understand the geography of our planet. Places start to repeat and connections develop. Real world geography apps may not have the immediate entertainment appeal of games, but they add a dimension of reality and relevance that enhances learning immensely.
Flight Tracking Geography Apps
These apps let you identify planes flying overhead by pointing your phone to the sky. You can also watch planes move in real time on a map. The apps let you tap on a plane for flight and aircraft information. I confess that the first time I looked at these maps, the dense mass of planes in the air astounded me!
Ship Tracking Geography Apps
We spend a lot of time in Manzanillo, Mexico. It is a major commercial port, and that is where I first began to use Marine Traffic to identify ships. Marine Traffic, and other ship tracking apps, display real-time positions of ships worldwide. You can browse interactive maps with real-time ship positions.
Photography Geography Apps
Photographs are one of the most effective ways for children to get a sense of place. Many talented photographers generously share their pictures of different locations through apps.
I like the photo viewer for Panoramio as a geography app. Panoramio is a photo sharing mashup owned by Google. Accepted photos can be accessed as a layer in Google Earth and Google Maps. Find the app here: Photo Viewer for Panoramio You can also check out the Panoramio website.
Stuck on Earth is another wonderful app for exploring the world through photographs.
Time Zone Geography Apps
Realizing that it is day in one place while it is night in another is how children begin to understand the movement of the Earth. Time zone apps let children see and compare time around the world.
The World Clock has a wonderful day/night map. You can scroll the darkness with your finger to convert the time. It also has information about selected cities.
Geography Apps for Weather and Natural Phenomena
Kids can learn a lot of geography from apps that track weather, earthquakes, and volcanoes.
World Weather Radar shows you the current weather conditions and the moving map for your location or a preferred location worldwide.
Volcanoes shows volcanoes on a map and provides information about them. It shows over 2000 currently active volcanoes.
QuakeFeed is an earthquake app with a variety of different map options. It uses feeds from the USGS and is an excellent educational tool.
The apps I mentioned are directly related to geography, but there are many others that include geographical concepts to present information about a topic. Consider your child’s interests and look for related real world apps. You will find tools for fishing, following soccer leagues, bird watching and more. Tapping into technology you can help children better understand how places and people connect.