You accidently fall asleep on the bus on the way home and you missed your stop. You get off the bus in a location you have never seen before. You do not recognize any landmarks, your phone is dead, you struggle with following directions, and socially you have difficulty asking for help.
This is theoretically what happens in GeoGuessr or in Go Guess (and Somewhere) on Oculus (Meta Quest), but it can also happen in real life. Many students and young adults with disabilities, especially those with autism, intellectual disabilities, or more significant support needs, struggle with verbal and nonverbal communication, emotional skills, and problem-solving skills similar to this situational activity, especially in high-stress environments. Digital or technology-based simulated environments can create a safe space where students can practice skills to help with situational awareness, transportation signs, communication of direction, and simply what to do in a situation where the student may be lost. All these programs will randomly drop the student anywhere in the world (some country filters available) and they have to try to find out what exact city or location they are in down the exact distance in feet based on where the map drops them. When a student(s) is dropped in a location they quickly have to learn how to use a combination of spatial skills, geographic skills, landmarks, signs, names on buildings, advertisements, and anything else that might give you clues to their location. Once the student uses a variation of problem-solving skills, that vary each play, the student will drop the pin on the map as to where they think they might be. The point-based system will allocate a specific number of points based on how close the student got to the actual drop location. This is where competitiveness kicks in for students! To start, I would recommend starting with GeoGuessr that is a web-based, user-friendly platform that integrates Google Maps view into the settings. It is also free and can be implemented immediately on student computers independently or through a projector with peers or as a group.
To formulate some ides, here are a few questions you can ask the students (or your child) while playing:
- What are some landmarks that you recognize?
- Do you notice any signs with clue words?
- What do you notice about the landscape (i,e., mountains, trees, snow, lakes, ocean)?
- Does the architecture of the homes give you any indication of region(s)?
- What do you do if you see a railroad crossing sign?
- What does a no trespassing sign mean?
- Do you see any highway signs?
- Do you see any signs that point to a direction to a city?
Virtual Reality (VR) Simulations
If you are looking for a full, interactive, high-tech virtual reality (VR) platform that creates a more simulated environment, Somewhere, and Go Guess uses VR technology to immerse students in a similar experience via captivating 360-degree photos. Similar to in GeoGuessr, scores are calculated based on how close you get to the actual location and you can also play against friends and strangers creating a live, real-time leaderboard. Somewhere and Go Guess is available for free on Meta Quest and Meta Quest 2 headsets. If you are a secondary special education teacher, administrator, assistive technology specialist, or work with students and young adults with disabilities who love technology, these programs are definitely worth a try! There are infinite number of ways to play and to individualize learning or questioning techniques for students with disabilities, but hopefully this will help get you started.