Thursday, September 09, 2010

Making Connections: A Little Soda-Pop Story

Generic Names for Soft Drinks by County

A note here to folks getting this via a reader, you definitely want to check this out on the site: so that you are sure to get all of the pictures; this just won't make sense without the pics. 

The map here is pretty amazing. Color-coded, it shows the national distribution of terminology used to describe soft drinks. You'll notice some telling facts. For example, the thin swath of yellow running down an otherwise red Florida's coast. That's East Coast migrants (aka retirees) bringing their slang to Florida. And notice which state seems most pluralistic? Yup, that's all those military folks from across the country huddled together in New Mexico.

Maps tell a story. And that's what my Human Geography students and I talked about today. We talked about how you could lay a map of something as seemingly innocuous as how people describe soft drinks over the context of patterns of human habitation and find a telling correlation.

They were pretty blown away.

Until somebody said, "But how do we know that's accurate?"

So we decided to do a little informal test. The 9th graders and I tweeted out the following:

Question from Freshman class: Hey world, what is the generic name you use for a softdrink? Please give name & yr location. THX! #JCHUMANGEO

And then we started chatting about the accents and dialects of different folks in different parts of the country. Had a nice discussion. And then I remembered to check to see what had come in via Twitter.

And I saw this:

Tweets 9/9/10

How's that for a little confirmation?

In real-time, sitting in a classroom in semi-rural Maryland, my 9th grade Human Geography students reached out to the world, asked it a question, and got a response.

We looked through the responses -- many of which included little stories of people's own lives and migrations -- and compared them to the map. The map proved most accurate.

Now that's what I call 21st century education: analyse information, check it against the real world in real time, and evaluate what it all means.


  1. Great read and example of positive use of Twitter. If I had seen your Tweet I would have responded "Coke" which is exactly what the map said I would say down to the county that I live in. Very neat!

  2. Nice. I instantly noticed the blob of "soda" drinkers in the middle of the country that help to split our state (Missouri) in half. It is so funny to see this graphically represented. It is a rather "understood" thing around these parts (Kansas City metro area) that most of us drink "pop" while our neighbors from St. Louis and the surrounding area drink "soda."

    Mini-lessons like this help to scaffold people into the power held within networks... and oiled for speed by technology. I would have both enjoyed this little project as well as learned from it. I appreciate learning events where age/generation is not a factor for engagement.

  3. What a great way to find out whether research is true! It was interesting to see the difference in terms across the country, and even within a small area. We say "soda" here in Northern California.

  4. That's fabulous but how does a teacher with a minuscule twitter following get that kind of response?

  5. Yep. We call it Coke here in Shelby County, TN and that's what the map says, too. Learning Curves, unfortunately, I think you have to have a large following and be well-received to get that kind of response.

  6. It would be interesting to find out about other anglophone communities as well. I grew up in the SE of England (just south of London) where it was "fizzy drinks", but now I live in the NE, between Durham and Newcastle, where everyone calls it "pop".

  7. In London, Ontario, Canada, we call it pop.

    I'm wondering if your students will be doing further infographic development. Tonight, we were in a discussion at our dinner table about where in Canada you can or can't get 'bags of milk'. Yeah, we buy milk in clear plastic bags.

    I suspect you do cartons all across the USA, but maybe I'm wrong?

  8. @Rodd and everyone else,

    We're hoping to connect to classrooms worldwide throughout this semester to Skype about issues related to Human Geography and Human "Human-ness". Let me know if you are interested in connecting and we'll work something out.


  9. YIKES! No wonder I was always saying the wrong thing and generating laughter as we moved around the country!

  10. AWESOME! Iconographics make good tools to convert words/phrases into user friendly and user inspiring classroom aides


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