Comparing countries with “The True Size of”

The True Size Of-Aust2

If you want a visual way of comparing the size of a country with another, on tool you could use is “The True Size of’ . It lets you type in the name of any country or state, see the statistics on its true size and then grab the outline of that country and drag it, as an overlay, to another one (or continent), allowing you to visually compare the land masses.

Very simple to use, it works as follows:

  • Type in the name of a country or state.
  • Hover over the outline selection to view the information about size
  • Click on the section to drag the overlay to somewhere else on the map
  • To rotate the your chosen country’s map, rotate the compass points on the left-hand side of the screen.
  • The True Size Of_China-AfricaIf you wnat ot you can type in a second (or more countries) to get a coloured outline and information.
  • Right click on the selection to delete it.

The True Size Of-Aust-China

The True Size of means you can now properly compare countries. Some of the students at our school have been compaing countries to Australia in geography and this is a great visual tool for them.

The site’s creators say the Mercator projection, which many world maps are based off, distorts the size of certain countries and makes regular size comparisons difficult. “Cartographers use something called a “projection” to morph the globe into 2D map. The most popular of these is the Mercator projection. Every map projection introduces distortion,” the site claimed.

“One of the most common criticisms of the Mercator map is that it exaggerates the size of countries nearer the poles (US, Russia, Europe), while downplaying the size of those near the equator (the African Continent)

I love that the app, created by James Talmage and Damon Maneice, was inspired by an episode of The West Wing and an infographic by Kai Krause entitled “The True Size of Africa“.  (I do not watch a lot US shows, I loved The West Wing.)


Using photos to understand history.

We had some geography units for our students based around how areas have changed over time. Many of our students enjoyed comparing historical photos I found for the local areas they knew and current photos that I took of the same places.

There are a few opportunities to make this a real life project and add to a global history project.

The tools below could be  useful for either history of geography if they were focusing on local studies.  I also see potential for the information to be used in our language classes where they also look into the culture of the country.

 1. History Pin 


Back in 2010 I wrote about a tool called History Pin. It was created  by “We Are What We Do”, a social action movement based in the UK (London) which is now known as Shift. History Pin was created in partnership with Google and is a tool looking at history with a timeline of photographs.

Still supported, it allows users to upload photographs, date them and then slide the timeline through history to see the changes over time. Whether you are interested in buildings, transport or “life” from a particular time, History Pin offers you a glimpse into the past.

It offered our students a great opportunity to do their own research and spend time with older members of their family, talking about the old photos in their family and making sure the stories they hear are kept for posterity. Some used it as a basis for family histories as they did the technical work and the older generations telling their stories/history.

Getting started 

To begin you will need to:

  • collect your own photos and it is recommended that they be outdoor shots.
  • know the location for each photo (the street rather than town or suburb)
  • scan your photos onto a computer

You can register by going to the homepage and clicking on the join button. You will need a Gmail address (you can get one from here) and once you have joined you use will use Google’s Picassa site for sharing photos.

2.  What Was there?


What Was There is a free online tool that makes use of Google Maps and the ability for people to upload old pictures of any location, add the date, and then pinpoint the location on a map and match it to the same view today. It provides a brief history of buildings that have long gone or still exist today. You can even look at a building or street via ‘street view’ and then it will overlay the old photograph on top, allowing you to fade the photo to reveal what it looks like today.

It is simple to adjust the view to match the view in the old photograph as it uses eye-level street view tools. When uploaded you can fade from one view to another so you can see the changes appear before your eyes.

This would be useful for pupils to see how streets around their home or school may have changed over time. They could contribute photographs or link from those elsewhere. It is being updated constantly with new photos.  There is also an iPhone app available as well.


Useful Links


Some sites for learning about environmental issues

We are celebrating our environment next week and our year 8 students are one week into researching global issues in Geography. I was pleased to find and use these sites when helping prepare students for their research.

The site of the United Nations Environment Program has an interactive map that displays 100+ examples of environmental change from around the world. You can choose to use the side index to find sites under lists with headings such as country, theme, biodiversity and protected, deserts & drylands, pollution etc.

There are icons/placemarks on the map that offer close-up views of the land with a story about the environmental change at that location. It indicates the major theme and other related themes for the site.

An example using the map: By clicking on the placemark for Wyperfield National Park, Australia you went to a page that had two close-up images of the site and some brief but reasonably detailed information about the environmental changes taking place there. The major theme for Wyperfield was Ecosystems and the related themes were Biodiversity & Protected areas, Extreme Events and Grasslands. 

This would be a good place for students to start their research into an environmental issue as there is enough information to pique their interest and clues about where to go onto next.

Another good site is Global Warming Facts and Our Future from the National Academy of Sciences. It’s a very engaging and extensive site, and includes audio support for the text. This assists some of our international students as well as those who are need extra learning support as the vocabulary may be a bit challenging.

Finally from one of my favourites, National Geographic, there is the  Global Warming Effects Map.

Mapping disasters in real-time – AlertMap

We seem to have been reeling from one-disaster to another this year. Our students have been very interested in (and concerned about) the floods here in Australia and the earthquake in Christchurch. The earthquake in Japan, and the potential for disaster that the Nuclear power stations pose, has the boys looking at the news media often.   There are of course many disasters that are constantly occurring that are not reported in our news media.

Alertmap is a tool that will show what is happening and where. It is a real-time map of disasters that logs and plots emergencies and tragedies as they happen around the world.

It covers various kinds of disasters. These are plotted on a Google-based map and include events such as the natural disasters (eg. earthquakes, floods, typhoons, tsunami), bushfires, epidemics, insect invasions, nuclear events, vehicle accidents and more. At the moment Japan has its own tab in red but you can also use the continents tab for other specific regions.

The events are divided into current emergencies, short time events, long time or rolling events. Each event is rated and color-coded to indicate how critical the event is to human life and property.

You can click on any icon on the map to show details of the event, including the co-ordinates, country, state, and date. The array of icons are explained under the help tab. The map takes data from the internet so it can plot them as they are happening. You can then follow a details link for extra information. The screen below shows the first summary page and you can follow other tabs for further information.

Below the map lists of disasters in table format. You can follow the links here just as you can from the map.

Also worth noting is that the site is free with no sign-up required