This March I had the privilege of presenting at the Wisconsin Council of Social Studies conference in Madison, WI. This conference is new to me since I haven’t really taught Social Studies as a class before. What a gem of a conference! I decided to share something I enjoy — Google Map tools. After becoming Google Certified and attending a Google Academy, I’ve made a commitment to immerse myself into Google Apps as much as possible. Google Maps happens to be one of those tools that just melts my mind. A good friend, Kurt Wismer, taught me a lot about Google Maps at the Midwest Google Summit in the Fall of 2014. I wanted to share bits and pieces of that with the WCSS folks. Google Maps is useful for any teacher, really. It just happens to be even more useful for Social Studies teachers. In my hour-long presentation, I only covered a handful of tools. Below you’ll find a list of the tools I introduced. Note that I write If I were a classroom teacher because I’m not a K-12 classroom teacher. I teach in Higher Education. So, yes, I’m a classroom teacher, but I don’t teach classes that would benefit from Google Maps integration.
Basic Functions in Google Maps: I love the fact that if I don’t have an actual address, I can just search in generalities like “Historical Places in Milwaukee.” Google Maps will generate a list. It functions more like a search engine in that instance, only more focused. I also appreciate being able to drag my peg man on the map for street views; furthermore, I like to search for that orange dot. The orange dot signifies an interior Google street view. If street view doesn’t float my boat, I can just open the tray at the bottom and look at user-submitted photos or street views. In some of the bigger cities, I can even see floor plans. For example, check out the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Not only do I get a floor plan, I can change levels. Of course, getting directions is a blast, but I appreciate the fact that I can look at directions for walking, biking, driving, public transportation, and even via plane. Note, that both the public transit and plane options give you prices as well. Although these are considered basic functions, they really are quite layered. Google Maps is feeding in content from other sources, including users.
Google Maps Gallery (w/Data): This tool is a gallery of user-created Google Maps. For example, I made a map of Maker Spaces in Wisconsin. I see that map is now accessible in the gallery.
If I were a classroom teacher, I would comb this for interesting maps that might speak to lessons learned in class. For example, if I were talking about transportation options in various communities I could use this bike rental map to spur discussion on why this type of business might exist in the city of Chicago.
Google Night Walk: This tool sends the user on a street-view journey in France where people with beautiful accents describe your surroundings. It is fabulous if you’re a French teacher, or if you’re studying culture. During my presentation, the wifi and/or internet speed was not sufficient to make this behave as it normally would.
If I were a classroom teacher, I would use this if we were looking at France or if we were talking about European landscape or culture. I especially like the audio support. I, of course, would be sure to walk all of the paths first.
World Wonders (explanation vid): This tool gathers up multiple fantastic locations around the world and layers that information on Google Maps. I can view exhibits, items, street views, et cetera.
If I were a classroom teacher, I would use this to support global studies. The writing is above elementary writing, so I would support students in large group explorations or in small. I would also focus on examining the visual imagery.
Explore the Barrier Reef: Nuff’ said. Check this out. It’s awesome!
If I were a classroom teacher, I would have students explore the barrier reef under water. We would look at life under the water, and probably squeal at the sharks.
Earth View from Google Maps – This is a tool a student shared with the class. It is a Chrome Extension that when you click a new tab in Chrome, a high-resolution Google Earth image becomes your homepage for that tab. You can click on the name of the location, and you’ll be brought to that location in Google Maps for further study. If you don’t want to do that, you can use the omnibar to conduct a search or click “Default New Tab” to return to your usual home page.
If I were a classroom teacher, I would install this extension and use each new tab as an opportunity for discussion. Maybe once a day we could explore a new location. This extension makes the process really easy.
Build with Chrome – This tool is a favorite for my kindergarten son right now. Basically, I’m provided with a Google Map. I can plunk in an address or search for a location. Once I have selected my location, the tool drops a large base lego for me to build my building. My son worked on recreating our house.
If I were a classroom teacher, I would assign each student a community building in my town. Their objective is to make a simplified replica of that building. If that were to tough, students could design a model building of a particular community building might look like. I might save this tool for my kids that have a clear interest in Minecraft.
Indoor Maps (Loc) – This tool allows me to see interior “street-views” of select locations. It’s easiest to see this in Google Maps when I drag peg man over the map. As usual, the map will light up with blue lines to indicate a street-view. When I see any orange dots, I drag peg man right over those dots and let go. So far I’ve been in historical museums, cafes, and hotel lobbies.
If I were a classroom teacher, I would be searching for an indoor map of every place we are studying in class. For example, when discussing transportation, I would walk through an airport if my students have traveled much. If we were talking about historical buildings, I’d walk through museums like this.
Go Back in Time – This tool allows me to see street views from today to “back in time,” often 2007. During my presentation, I accidentally dropped myself in front of a library in Madison. Little did I know, that library was built back in 2007, so when I went back in time, I was able to see the evolution of the building. To do this, I simply moved the timeline back to the desired year.
Google Crisis Map – This tool allows me to look at national weather conditions over Google Maps.
Google Sightmap – This tool takes all of the user-submitted photos and creates a heat map of those locations. The more the areas draw in user-submitted photos, the brighter the color. I can easily see that uploading to Panaramio is much more common in Europe than it is in the states. Or maybe people take more photos in Europe. 🙂
If I were a classroom teacher, I would use this with 4th or 5th graders depending on the scope and sequence of my district’s social studies curriculum by connecting locations, people, or events in history or readings to locations in this tool. I’m a bit torn on this one because while I love the layering with user-generated information, I can’t ensure that 100% of the information is safe.
My Maps – This tool allows me to create custom maps to share with others. For example, I made a map of locations to take field trips in Southwest Wisconsin. I have also made maps by having people fill out Google Forms. I then imported that spreadsheet data into My Maps and wha-lah!
If I were a classroom teacher, I would email a form home to parents asking them to share a Google form with as many family members as possible. The form would simply ask where respondents are from. That data would then be plugged into a Map to show how far our families reach. This also might spark future connections for Google Hangouts. I would also use My Maps to create custom maps that reflect places traveled in a book or places learned in Social Studies lesson.
Add Photospheres of your community – This tool allows me to create my own photospheres. A photosphere reminds me of a virtual tour of real estate. You’ve seen those before, right? Same thing. Except now we all can do theme using the Photosphere setting on your phone or tablet. You can also download Google Camera, although the app crashes on my phone. I have only done this successfully once using my Nexus 7 tablet. I went into the center of the Wisconsin Capital and snapped a series of shots that produced a 360 degree spin. I chose not to upload it because 1.) I messed up in one spot, 2.) Several people ended up in the photosphere. I felt weird about publishing it. Just an FYI — Read the directions on how to make a good photosphere. I neglected to keep my hands at the same position. I would think a tri-pod with a good swivel would solve that problem.
If I were a classroom teacher, I would find as many devices as possible and teach my students how to make a photosphere. I then would take them to a local park or government building. Students will learn about the community by engaging with it.
Add photos using Panaramio – This tool allows users to upload photos to Panaramio. Each of those photos include a description and map coordinates. If approved, those photos are then visible in Google Maps and in Google Earth. I forget that I have to be really patient. The approval process can take a month. I have an old Panaramio account with about 40 mapped photos; here is my new account I started this spring.
If I were a classroom teacher, I would find as many devices as I could for field trips and assign them to responsible students or chaperones. Students then would photograph memorable places on the field trip. That night, under my account, I’d upload all of those photos to my Panaramio account. I might indicate the original photographer with initials if I could figure that out. I think the students would get a kick out of knowing their photo could eventually show up in Google Earth and/or Maps. I wonder how that would improve their ability to notice landmarks, important features, and artifacts. 🙂
Each time I start writing about a new tool, I find myself wanting to write, “This is my favorite Google Maps tool!” In reality, I love all of them, and I even skipped a bunch. Google Maps has now become a multi-layered, user-influenced, research tool that knocks down classroom walls. I can’t wait to keep learning!
Here is a slide show of my presentation: