Teaching Geography in the Twenty-First Century

New Tools Are Available to Teach Geography in More Engaging, Dynamic, and Effective Ways
Geography is considered one of the world’s oldest disciplines. It was first defined and formally established by Eratosthenes in 250 BC and has a rich tradition of scholarship extending from 2,000 years ago to the present. As a scientific discipline, geography has always embraced new technologies, research practices, instructional methods, skills, and content.

Teaching geography in the 21st Century includes working with mobile and online mapping tools, in addition to traditional focuses such as physical and cultural geography, fieldwork, and understanding landscapes.
The challenge for geography teachers today is how to teach the subject effectively in the twenty-first century while remaining true to its rich heritage and embracing emerging and exciting tools and perspectives. Teaching geography is about leading students to an understanding of today’s challenges including population, land-use, urban, economic, and health issues and natural hazards. Teaching geography effectively in the twenty-first century requires a focus on scale, systems thinking (such as climate, watersheds, and energy systems), and critical thinking.

Implementing Twenty-First Century Teaching Strategies and Tools

This is best accomplished through an inquiry-driven, hands-on, problem-based format that uses technological tools to teach conceptual foundations, skills, and geographic perspectives.

To gain these foundations and skills, a number of options are available, such as the Teaching Geography in the Twenty-First Century online course that I offer periodically (, the online Elmhurst College certificate program in AP Human Geography (, the essays we write every few days that are focused on teaching with GIS (, and the hands-on workshops we teach at conferences such as the Association of American Geographers, the National Council for Geographic Education, the National Council for the Social Studies, and our own Esri Education GIS Conference.
A geospatially literate population is the goal of teaching geography in the twenty-first century. Such a population is better equipped to recognize, understand, and resolve those critical issues, whether local or global, that will confront us today and in the future.

Next Article

The Science of Where for Sustainable Development Webinar Series

Read this article