World Geography Tutor Review
Act smart, be smart, with World Geography Tutor 1.9
Publisher: Educational software by AHA! Software, distributed by FamilyGames.com.
There was a time I could not find Djibouti.
Maybe you already know where it is, tucked in between Eritrea and Somalia at the upper corner of the horn of Africa. If you did know that already, and are also confident on the whereabouts of other moderately obscure places like Togo, Turkmenistan and Wisconsin, you might not need AHA! Software’s World Geography Tutor, which has just come out better than ever in version 1.9.
If you already have a good grasp of world geography, I suppose this program might be a bit elementary for you.
But if you’re like me, if you somehow got through school and a good deal else without ever developing a clear and comprehensive overview of world political geography, or if you sometimes find yourself in conversations where everybody but you seemss to know where Bhutan is (and you’re wondering if you should put forward something about llamas), this World Geography Tutor program could change your whole outlook. It might not technically make you more intelligent to possess a comprehensive knowledge of the world’s nations, to know every single one of them both by name and by its place on the map, but it can make you seem more intelligent, and it will certainly leave you better equipped to join in next time when serious matters — the Middle East, global warming, international relations — are under discussion.
The World Geography Tutor main screen could be your gateway to a world of learning.
The World Geography Tutor main screen divides up the world into eight regions. Among these are the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe, and the quasi-continent of Oceania, which includes Australia, New Zealand and much of the South Pacific. To begin ‘exploring Africa’ now, select it either directly on the map or on the text list to its right. This opens the Africa page, with a full map to the left, and a list of areas on the right. Each area is an African country, from Algeria to Zimbabwe. Because the map of Africa is too large to display in the World Geography Tutor window, it scrolls as needed to allow the mouse pointer to traverse the full map. (The resulting interplay between mouse motion and the scrolling display may take a bit of adaptation for some users, but quickly becomes second nature.)
As we explore the map, the countries highlight under the mouse, while reference information is displayed at bottom right.
Countries highlight as the mouse passes over them. If the Info Window feature is enabled, concise reference information — population, area and capital city — for the country appears in an area at the bottom right of the main window. This information makes for some interesting comparisons when we explore the map. For instance, we see quickly that Zimbabwe has five times the population of neighboring Botswana, but only two-thirds its land area. Discrepancies like this remind us that a wealth of geographical, historical and political detail lies hidden behind even the best maps and richest reference sources.
Botswana and Zimbabwe: Even these basic statistics point up telling differences between southern African neighbors.
Facing the test
OK, let’s say you’ve spent some time scrolling around the map of Africa, gawking at country names like Burundi, Benin and Burkina Faso that — in some households, at least — may not be household names. Just looking at them doesn’t mean you’re going to remember them, right? But what good is information if you can’t make it stick? How can you call it a ‘mental framework’ if it isn’t there when you need it?
That’s where the browse-and-test cycle comes in.
When we switched to the map of Africa, World Geography Tutor started us in Explore mode, and we used that to get at least a nodding acquaintance with the countries on the map. It’s worth taking a little time over this browsing step. Try to identify what you know and what you have still to learn. Make an effort to memorize at least one or two new items. Whenever you feel ready, road-test your knowledge by taking a quiz. At the outset, what you know might not be too impressive, but don’t let that harsh your buzz. In a shorter time than you probably imagine, you’ll be getting perfect scores!
AHA! Software, the developers of World Geography Tutor, stress what they call ‘two-way recall’ as a means of solidifying learning. If you can find a country on the map when given its name, that’s one-way recall. So is the reverse task, tougher for many people, of naming a particular country when it’s highlighted on the map. Neither is enough on its own for learning that’s going to stick. But when both kinds of recall are trained, rather than just one, they reinforce each other to create a stable mental model that facilitates long-term retrieval with fewer, shorter refresh sessions.
You might think the two-way recall principle would require two kinds of quiz — and that’s exactly what World Geography Tutor provides. In the first, called Find Countries, you are given the names of countries to click on the map. The other, Identify Countries, highlights a country and asks you to click its name on the list. There are three configurable quiz lengths: Short, with 10 questions; Medium, with 20 questions; and Full, with as many questions as there are countries on the map. There’s no right or wrong quiz length. Pick the one you like best, or the one that best fits your schedule.
Similarly, how much time you spend browsing in the Explore mode, which quiz types you try, in what order and in what proportions, are all left up to you. World Geography Tutor provides the tools to make drill effortless and memorization easy, but your own goals, and your learning style, will guide you in applying them. The key is to spend enough time, over as many sessions as necessary, to learn all the countries to the point of utter familiarity. If you hear the word ‘Benin’, a picture of that small country should pop unbidden into your mind, just as it looks on the map: thin, vertical and bulbous-topped, tucked between tiny Togo on the one hand and giant Nigeria on the other. Once you get to that point — and it doesn’t take long to get there — all you’re going to need is a periodic refresher in World Geography Tutor to keep the countries of Africa permanently in mind. If you later go on to learn more about Africa, your bare-bones familiarity with the map will gradually become fleshed out with that real-world knowledge.
Although Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania each fit comfortably enough on their own maps, the Americas are divided for convenience into four sections: the Caribbean, Chile to Mexico, Canada plus Greenland, and the United States. On the last two maps, the areas under study are not countries. In the case of Canada, the provinces and territories are listed; for the USA, it is the 48 contiguous states (i.e. excluding Hawaii and Alaska). (Similarly, the Australian states are included as separate areas in the Oceania map.)
The European flags page is one of two bonus flag quizzes in World Geography Tutor.
In addition to the eight primary maps, World Geography Tutor provides three bonus quizzes for fun and further education. One of these covers the state capitals of the USA, using a special version of the main USA map. The other two are ‘flag quizzes’, one for Africa and one for Europe; in these you have to match a picture of a country’s flag to the country name, or vice versa, in a similar fashion to the geography quizzes.
If you want to brush up on your geography for school, for work or out of personal interest, World Geography Tutor gives you the most concentrated, efficient tool available. If you would like to come across as more intelligent and knowledgeable, owning a solid grasp of global political geography is one of the essentials.
The software doesn’t pretend to cover its topic in encyclopedic depth. Since the idea is to construct a mental framework, excessive detail would only hinder the task. The rest can and should come later. Many free sources of geographical reference knowledge are available to anyone with an Internet connection. World Geography Tutor’s important role is to provide both a base on which you can build over time with additional knowledge, and a bird’s-eye overview that helps you keep everything in context.
Obtaining World Geography Tutor
The latest version of World Geography Tutor is available from AHA! Software’s site for game players of all ages, FamilyGames.com. Click ‘World Geography Tutor’ in the index on the left side of the screen. That takes you to the application’s own page, where you’ll find download buttons (Download — free) at the top and bottom. The download is just a bit over 2 MB, so you won’t be waiting long. Opening the download file installs the software. (For the convenience of readers of this review, direct download and purchase links for World Geography Tutor are provided below.)
World Geography Tutor, version 1.9, by AHA! Software Inc., Victoria, BC Canada. Price: $15.00 USD. 10 days free evaluation; three major maps and quizzes remain permanently functional after evaluation period expires. System requirements: Any laptop or desktop computer running Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7.