A good way for teachers to introduce world geography and history into their classroom is to have students study flags from around the world.
From their shapes, colors, designs and even fabrics, flags can offer students a significant look at the history, symbolism and cultures of the world’s nations. The study of flags, often called vexillology, can be a good starting point for lessons in history, government, geography or social studies.
For tablet-enabled classrooms with internet access, dozens of apps can help teachers introduce students to flags. A good one to consider is “Flags and Capitals” by Xcentric Systems.
The app is free and includes an impressive collection of 322 colorful three-dimensional flag images from all U.S. states and territories plus a multitude of nations. It’s aimed at students from upper elementary grades through high school.
Students using the app will learn:
- Correct spelling of states, nations and capital cities
- Distance from home
- Flag design details
- Geographic locations
The app can be a great reference tool to supplement classroom lectures or assist students with research projects.
At first launch, the app asks users to allow it to access the “location” feature on their smartphone or tablet. It’s important to tap the “yes” box so all the app’s features can be used. No sign-in or registration are needed.
The navigation is simple to follow with no splashy sound effects, music or heavy animation to distract students. Instead, the app focuses on bare-bones facts and figures about U.S. state and world flags and their capital cities.
How it works
The flags appear onscreen in a carousel format. Using a finger to tap the “gear” icon below the carousel automatically rotates each flag across the screen for easy viewing. Tapping the “gear” icon again stops the carousel. Students can manually move through the collection by swiping either right or left with their finger.
Tapping once on a flag brings up a larger, more detailed view. Tapping again launches a map that shows the location of the state, territory or nation. A text box also shows how far away the location is from the student in kilometers and miles. For iPad users, the app supports Apple’s new Flyover maps technology.
Next, tapping the “I” icon in the map’s text box connects students to a Wikipedia page where they can learn more about the location associated with the flag. Tap the “Close” button at the bottom of the screen to return to the carousel.
Finally, for quick access to individual flags, tapping the hourglass icon in the upper right corner of the screen launches a search page that includes an alphabetical listing of all locations and a text field where students can type search inquiries.
Content in the “Flags and Capitals” app includes 322 flag images with capital cities and countries listed. Each flag can be viewed without an internet connection. However, an internet connection is needed to see the maps and distance charts and to follow links to external Wikipedia pages.
No in-app purchases are required, but non-intrusive advertisements appear at the bottom of the screen.
The “Flags and Capitals” app by Xcentric Systems is free and can be downloaded through Google Play and iTunes. It’s compatible with smartphones and tablets running the Android operating system 1.6 or later. Apple users can play the app using iPhones or iPad tablets running iOS version 8.0 or later.Learn More: Click to view related resources.
- Robert Sarwark, "What’s in a Flag? A Brief Introduction to Vexillology," Glocal Notes, the University of Illinois