While e-mail can be a powerful and useful tool, the bottomless pit of jokes and cutesy
animated cards that make their way around the world often stretch the computers
processor and the users patience. Its safe to say, however, that McLuhan would
endorse the World Wide Web or at least its concept.
But taken literally, the notion of a global village in the context of the web
poses some interesting and sometimes, troubling questions.
Does the notion of a wired world contemplate travel as somehow unnecessary? After all,
with a few keystrokes here, a mouse click there and faster than you can say
"www," images and sounds of the Borneo rain forest abound no passport
required. Heck, you might even encounter an orangutan, cell phone in hand, with the
cutline "This web site is sponsored by
" You get the picture.
Yes, sun worshippers will still wing their way to sandy beaches and turquoise seas, but
studying geopolitics and what makes the earth so unique should not be relegated to the
net alone. Its a starting point. At some point you gotta give up the mouse and
get out there and explore.
This isnt a lament for reality. Its a reality check. Use these
geography-related sites as a jumping-off point. And try to leave the lap-top at home.
Countries and Capitals from Around the World
This site offers an
exhaustive list of countries, their capitals and territories, with encyclopedic-like
entries for quick and easy reference. Users encounter an overview of the world on the main
page, replete with population, land mass, climate, elevation extremes, natural resources,
and so on. Just how exhaustive is this reference? Well, Clipperton Island in the north
Pacific Ocean has a total land mass of seven sq. km. and a coastline of 11.1 km. There are
no inhabitants and no natural resources, but it does have a tuna fishing station. This
French possession, by the way, is subject to tornadoes. Impress your friends.
Canadian Communities Atlas
An initiative of the federal
government, this web-based project is designed by students and teachers. It allows
individual schools to create an atlas of their community with physical, economic, human
and historical geographic themes. Its free to participate in, and if youve
ever only heard of Brandon and arent quite sure whats there, well, heres
where to get all the, um, dirt. An excellent way to combine several curriculums in one
What makes for a good
web site? Currency. And the National Geographics site is certainly that, with daily
updates. The site boasts pages related to the societys television series, magazine,
a childrens section, photography, on-line quizzes and a range of interactive bits
and bytes. Teachers can also subscribe to e-mail updates to assist them with in-class
Webcams, while voyeuristic,
can be fascinating little tools. Essentially, a webcam is a digital camera that captures
live images, feeding them to a web site, with updates every few minutes. New York City has
several webcams at strategic points. But weve all seen the New York skyline. Some
would argue that we all know what the Russian Kremlin looks like, too. However, this web
site offers not only a live image of Moscows famous, and once infamous, edifice, but
image archives, weather, economic updates, and details about what youre seeing. An
interesting window on the world.
Brad Ross is associate editor of Professionally Speaking and the
Colleges web editor. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.