The first computerized Hebrew-language atlas has been released this week, and it is designed especially for elementary and high school students.
The atlas, which allows easy access to a large variety of maps for different uses, was the result of a joint initiative between Hebrew University’s center for Computational Geography, and the Center for Educational Technology (CET).
The atlas’s unique infrastructure is based on the same methodology used by Google Maps. Information is stored in a Microsoft database which has been developed over the past year, and will be updated from time to time with new topological and subject-specific data.
The digital atlas is customized for the elementary and high school Geography curriculums, with a user-friendly interface designed to give over as much relevant information as possible. The maps themselves are accompanied by interactive programs which are geared for students to learn basic map-reading skills in the simplest and most interesting way possible.
“The world of [printed] books has undergone a digital revolution in recent years, and we didn’t want to be left behind,” said Prof. Daniel Felsenstein, director for the center of Computational Geography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Our goal was to make geographic information more accessible to students and to the general public in a user-friendly and simple [program]. As such, we are constantly adding new layers of information to the atlas, to keep it relevant and up-to-date.” The professor added that the advantage of a digital atlas is in the short waiting time between updates, which can be frequent due to political or climactic changes — a huge improvement over printed atlases.
Iris Shiloni, of the CET, adds that “the advantage of atlases is that they encourage investigative research. The information derived from atlases and their graphs encourages students to ask questions and to explore phenomena occurring in the world today.” Shiloni reports that the atlases are “already being used by schools” and will be released as part of a student package by the CET.
Geography is an important subject for Israeli students, as they are raised in a land at the center of international events; the subject is a popular elective for the Bagrut, or Israeli Matriculation Examinations, as well as a major offered at large Israeli universities.