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TECHNOLOGY HELPING PUT GEOGRAPHY ON THE MAP

The Lockport Board of Education has been using technology to help students overcome geographic ignorance.

Three years ago, the board hired Robert Lord, an adjunct professor of social science at Niagara County Community College, as a consultant to install the Geographic Information System in district computers and show teachers how to use it in the classroom to integrate geography in the teaching of other subject areas.

Addressing the board Wednesday, Lord -- noting this is National Geography Awareness Week -- said he has trained 54 district teachers how to use the system so far and praised the board for being a pioneer in this area.

Lord noted geography is a sore subject for U.S. students.

"It's an embarrassment every time America is in competition with the rest of the world," he observed. "It ends up in last place. We don't know much about the rest of the world or where things are. But it's not the kids' fault. It's not your fault."

The problem, Lord said, is systemic.

"The United States is about the only country in the world without a kindergarten through 12th-grade curriculum where geography is taught as a science," he said.

Using system mapping techniques on the computer, for example, students in science classes can find out why Monarch butterflies migrate south before winter sets in. They also can learn a lot about Canada, the United States and Mexico in the process.

Students also learn why a particular valley in Mexico draws the Monarchs during the winter after they've summered in sections of the United States and Canada with similar weather patterns.

He said the system empowers students to be more competitive on the global stage and noted students in other countries get about 15 courses in geography by the time they graduate.

"They study us intently and learn about us and other places," he said. "They know their competition. It places them at a great advantage and places us at a great disadvantage in terms of a global market. You only have to look at our trade deficit with other countries. It's truly scary. We need to move forward."

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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