This morning my son, Jack, asked me if he could see the Panama Canal on a map. Should I get out the atlas and show him? Maybe Wikipedia? There were lots of things we could have done, but I opted to pull out my smart phone. My phone is a Droid with Google’s android OS, but other smart phones or my wife’s touch would have worked as well. A computer could do the trick as well, but that is so last year. Here is what I did:
1. I turned it on and pressed the maps app.
2. Pressed the search button
3. Pressed the voice search button
4. Spoke the words “Panama Canal”
3 presses on the screen, 2 words and a total of 15 seconds later I had a map showing the Panama Canal. I first zoomed out and showed him exactly where it was in relation to North and South America. Then I zoomed in and followed the canal to the Atlantic side locks. I was able to zoom in to show just a single lock and the satellite image even had a ship in one of the locks.
I explained how the water in the locks is controlled by gravity and replenished by lot of rain fall throughout the year. He loved hearing about how the trains pull the large ships through the canal and especially how small a pirate ship would have been if it went through the canal.
All-in-all, a very informative 5 minutes. Perhaps sometime when Jack is not getting ready for school, we can spend some more time reading about the Panama Canal on Wikipedia.