T. Kajiyama

Aoyama Gakuin University (JAPAN)
In geography education in junior high school in Japan, textbooks and information packets are usually used in class, and students still take conventional passive lessons that feature a teacher's one-way explanations. In particular, in a textbook unit about countries around the world, students might read fragmentary descriptions despite the fact that there is a lot of digital educational materials available about many countries. To develop enjoyable lessons that will remain in students' minds stronger and longer, it would be extremely beneficial to propose a geography learning system from which students can learn about a country by themselves.

In this research, we propose an interactive country data exploration system that provides visual cues to students. This system allows students to operate various kinds of country features and to analyze the relationships between countries and their features. We implemented 195 country data and prepared seven attributes for the country features as exploration facets: color of the national flag, pattern of the national flag, total area, population, population density, GDP, and time difference with Japan. This system has three components: a country search interface, a world map, and details of countries.
We applied our proposed search interface, named ”Concentric Ring View,” as the method for exploring with this system. This is a ring-structured graphical interface like a planisphere for multi-attribute metadata. When a user selects an attribute for searching, a ring that carries the attribute values of the attribute appears. The attribute values at the bottom part of the ring are used as search keys, and the retrieved results are displayed inside the ring in real time. Users can adjust search keys by rotating the ring. If a user selects plural attributes, the rings for the attributes are arranged in concentric circles to provide and search. Users continue to search by adding, deleting, combining and rotating rings without any keyboard typing.
We used images of national flags to symbolize the countries in retrieved results. By putting a cursor on an image in the retrieved results, the details of a country are displayed. To enhance students' knowledge, we prepared a world map to represent countries in retrieved results. In this system, countries in retrieval results are colored in blue on the world map, and the country displaying details are colored in red.

Using this system, we could find many facts explained in textbooks by analyzing the relationships between various attributes and a world map. For example, many countries whose national flag contains the color green are in the African continent because the color green represents plants, the time difference from Japan is decided according to how far away the country is from Japan to the west, there is no guarantee that countries with a large population are big, and so on. We can also find other interesting discoveries such that the countries whose national flags have diagonal stripes are small, and that the countries whose national flags have a crescent moon are located in North Africa and Southeast Asia.

We believe that this system has a high possibility of supporting comprehensive geography learning by adding other attributes such as the amount of imports, exports, production, and so on. We plan to perform a usability test in junior high schools to verify the effectiveness of learning with the system and the operability of the system.