Maps and Digital Geography Applications

Maps are an excellent introductory tool for taking students on meaningful adventures through geography, cultures, history, and current events.  We often think of maps as neutral documents that give us an unmediated snapshot of political borders and cities, or terrain, or resources. However, maps are human documents, and they therefore reflect their creators’ point of view. How does a mapmaker decide what is worth including on a map and what will be left out? How do these choices focus our attention on the mapmaker’s concerns? How do they reflect her intellectual, economic or political biases? Asking questions such as this will help students develop “map literacy” as they explore the fascinating history and cultures of the Middle East, as well as the significant role geography plays in the region.

Technology has revolutionized the way we look at and represent the world. Innovative tools now exist that allow students to appreciate the complexities of geography with an interactive interface rather than the two-dimensional, static perspective of “flat maps.” At a time when 85% of Americans still can’t find Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran on a map, letting students explore the region through more engaging platforms will help provoke dialogue about different places, peoples, and events. Further, it’s important to consider the various types of visual tools that are now available: infographics and maps can focus on specific themes and dynamics such as literacy and religiosity, while satellite images can reveal information about the impact of conflict on harmful gas emissions.  We have a few suggestions to get you started on your explorations, but you will also find helpful articles about and resources on critical land, geographical, and environmental issues in the Middle East.

Visually is an infographic platform that connects designers, journalists, animators and developers to collaborate on high-quality, cloud-based projects that present such information as internet use statistics across the Middle East. These geography infographics span topics from tsunamis to cartography.

National Geographic has a savvy MapMaker Interactive tool that puts the art of cartography directly into the hands of students. They can explore and discover information about countries and territories around the world; customize the fill and border colors to make map layers; and add text, photos, data, and videos to tell a certain story.

Explore fault lines in the Middle East with this site that tracks earthquakes across the world by place, date, and magnitude. This could be a fun supplement to earth science and geography units as one can follow movement trends over time.

The European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) is an intergovernmental organization and was founded in 1986 whose purpose is to supply constant weather and climate-related satellite data, images and products to member and cooperating states in Europe, and other users worldwide. On April 1, 2015, a dust storm formed rapidly over the Arabian Peninsula and satellites captured a fascinating spectrum of dust colors and storm movement. Check out this report accompanied by a handful of incredible images.

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