There's a commercial for Landrover that features a man in a recording studio giving directions to be used in a GPS. "At the junction, turn right. At the forest, turn right. At the mountain pass, turn right." It goes on and the progression shows that he's been at it a long time when at the end he says, "I suppose you want all the left turns now."
The GPS has become a crutch to all of us. There are few places in the world where there are roads and rental cars where you cannot find a GPS to guide you. Have you seen some of the news reports of accidents or near misses from the GPS giving the wrong information or confusing information? It happens and can cost you injury. People have ended up driving off of boat ramps, onto roofs of homes, and turning onto railroad tracks because of wrong or not clearly given directions. The solution? Learn to read a map and use it as a supplement to your GPS.
Maps are also a good tool when you are just walking but there are a few things to keep in mind when you are trying to read a map.
First, establish where north is on your map. It is usually at the top but sometimes for whatever reason, a map will be slightly skewered with north to the side. Knowing where north is on the map will help you determine where you are headed. Remember sun rises in the east and sets in the west--generally speaking. Depending on what hemisphere you are in and what time of year it is, it may be slightly to the north or south as it rises and sets. Still if you're supposed to go east and it's the end of the day, the sun should not be in front of you.
Try to get a simple map. Some of the tourist maps get really full of advertising. If you're driving, look for a good atlas or driving map online before you start off on your trip. Even though the GPS is giving Bob directions, I sit with a map on my lap and double check. It's saved us a wrong turn or two.
Especially if you are walking, it is good to understand what the scale of the map is. A quarter of an inch indicating a mile is a longer walk that if it indicates a hundred feet. Look for the scale printed in one of the corners usually.
Teach your kids to use a map. Perhaps making a treasure map with goodies at the X. Electronics are good but sometimes not always functional and learning to read a map could be a useful tool.It might also give them a reason to look out the window on a long car trip. If they each have a map and a list of places to check off, it could be a game that doesn't require batteries.
At the very least learning north, south, east, and west could be helpful. I'm not advocating navigating by the stars and equipping everyone with a sextant but you know, sometimes the old ways work very well.