Evaluating Road Trip

Besides testing Road Trip to see if it helped students take traditional geography tests, we also looked at something we consider more important -- whether students can plan a trip, an activity they will have to perform often in life.

Road Trip does not have students study maps; it has them use maps. We have some idea of how children think about geography while using maps from the comments they make as they are using Road Trip. We overheard children saying to themselves, "Which direction is my destination?" and "How am I going to get there?" This is what you would expect from someone who is thinking about geography in terms of real world application. Because they are thinking about geography differently, students using Road Trip may not learn the same information as students studying a map would. Although this information is certainly embedded in their plan of action, it does not necessarily mean that they would do well on a traditional test.

To test whether they could plan trips, students were given a list of possibly interesting sites and an atlas and asked to pick three sites and plan a road trip from Chicago to visit all three. To do this, students must find the state map for the site, as well as each intervening state. Then they must determine which highways will lead to the desired locations. Of 19 students who used Road Trip, one student stopped after planning 2 of the 3 legs of the journey. The other 18 had no problem at all using the atlas and planning a road trip, including the names of all the highways and directions to turn.

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