Creative and Collaborative Learning with Google Maps
For a social studies teacher, Google Maps can be indispensable. It offers a powerful and engaging platform for teachers to present content and, more importantly, for students to create content collaboratively. students love that they feel like Atlas, holding the world in the palm of the hand (actually, at their fingertips). It’s incredible fun to play around with google Maps, zooming in on your house or school, doing a street level view of your neighborhood, looking for famous landmarks … but how can this powerful tool be used in and out of the classroom for more than just a fly by? With some creativity, experimentation, and guidance, almost any social studies topic can be taught (and assessed) through Google Maps. It takes only a few minutes to devise challenging, creative and engaging activities combining history, geography, and technology. So … let’s take a look at some awesome ideas for integrating Google Maps, and then make one together! I created some screencasts to help get the geographical ball rolling … and as I will say in the presentation, I highly suggest you use CLASSIC MAPS.
Some classroom tested ideas for integrating Google Maps …
The Historical Road Trip (Essential Question)
I have been fortunate to go on a few historical road trips in my professional career, similar to the various excursions taken by Tony Horowitz of Confederates in the Attic fame. I have always wanted to take students on similar trips (until my common sense kicked in), and found that one of the easiest ways to do so is through Google Maps.
The assignment is The Legacy of the West Road Trip. When we examine America’s expansion into the West after the Civil War, one essential question is “What is the legacy of the West?” The gimmick for this assessment? I am starting a historical-themed travel company called History Rules! Tours, and I am looking for some summer employees. I offered kids the “chance” to design a road trip the help present the legacy of the reshaping of the American West after the Civil War. Students were given a an introduction with a project outline and instructions, a project rubric and example entries, and a class demonstration. From there, they completed their research and maps as we conducted class activities, simulations,and discussions. I encouraged them to locate essential spots as we discussed different concepts and events in class and also search for creative “out of the way” locations.
Mapping World War II (National Standard)
I may be completely biased, but I strongly believe that students should understand the flow of the military campaigns in the two theaters in World War II – in part to understand the progression of the war, and in part to appreciate the sacrifices made by the men and women that served. The National Standards for American History agree … so I guess I’m not totally off my rocker.
To get students interested in developing a map, I tell them that they have been hired by American History Rules! Cool School Stuff, an emerging educational supply company, to create an interactive educational map that helps support the national standard. As we discuss the flow of the war in class, they will display and annotate the major events in the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters during World War II. The instructions help them develop a best selling educational tool. I also provide an example for Pearl Harbor in order to set the stage.
The Growing Nation (Unit Assessment)
This year, I found that I was crunched for time on a few of the topics for antebellum America. In addition, students sometimes think that the topics of “The Growing Nation” have little correlation with each other. As we presented and discussed the content in this short mini-unit, I felt that a collaborative collection of information would be a successful method of assessing their learning. The result? The Growing Nation collaborative maps!
As we examined the essential questions of the unit, students prepared for class by making entries on their maps and checking their partners’ entries. Each of the entries had something to do with what we would discuss in class and linked to their understanding of the essential questions. I tried to give students the resources they needed to be successful, and they also used their search skills to find images. Students also had to make some judgments about the content, extending the learning beyond the basic facts. I provide a general map as an example for the student entries and also a detailed Growing Nation Map Rubric.
What else can you do with Google Maps? How about …
- Presenting content, similar to a text book. A Milwaukee teacher has done so with various Google Maps, including this one on exploration.
- Put together a geography based historical timeline for just about any topic.
- Make historical or modern day tours of cities, battlefield, or countries, similar to the Freedom Trail in Boston.
- Present a “collection” of geographic features, such as archipelago, basin, peninsula, desert, delta, and more.
- Produce an illustrated biography or creative story about an individual (real or fictitious).
- I’m still thinking … let me know if you have some ideas as well!
The Google Academy has a great Google Maps site with ideas and tutorials if you want some more directions. Teachinghistory.org also has a great overview of Google Maps in the classroom, as does edtechvoice.com.