Saturday, May 29, 2010

It's all in the map

The resources Joann picked this week are fun examples of how to include interactive maps in your classroom. If you haven’t checked them out yet, please do. Really…who hasn’t wondered where they would end up if they tunneled through the earth? All three resources would be great for a geography classroom, and an interactive piracy map could tie in well in a history class or even an English class if you are reading about pirates.

In last week’s post about the oil spill in The Gulf of Mexico, I talked about a tool created for Google Earth to compare the size of the spill to metropolitan areas. This creative use of Google Earth helps put context to the actual size of the disaster. Most of us are pretty familiar with the area around where we live, but not all of us have been out in the ocean off the coast of Louisiana.

Another interesting use of Google Earth is a project by Thomas J. Petra called Real-World Math. He has a whole collection of lessons and group projects that use Google Earth to help introduce and clarify many traditional and non-traditional math topics. It’s neat to have students figure out the volume of a pyramid in class, and it works even better if you can bring in pyramids for them to measure. With Google Earth, you can take it to the next level. Students can use the measurement tool to actually measure the Great Pyramids in Egypt. If only we could afford that field trip…

Many of the resources that I found in my Gateway search focused purely on geography, like map puzzles from Owl and Mouse Software. These puzzles allow students to manipulate maps, making the concepts seem a little more real. Maps truly are tools for adventure. National Geographic has created some fun games to help students hone their map skills. Check out the games here. Another fun game was brought to my attention by another Twitter user, @blairteach. This game tests your knowledge of European cities by challenging you to land a plane as close as possible to that city. Try it for yourself to see how much European geography you know. Let’s just say that I could use a little work! Maybe a trip to Europe is in order.

Since the study of maps is generally limited to geography, it was refreshing to see some resources that combined the study of maps with other subjects. I found some on The Gateway that could easily be implemented into a history or science classroom.

History is often intertwined with the geography in which it takes place. The following two tools take advantage of that fact to bring interactive mapping into the history classroom. This interactive conflict map allows you to view all the conflicts and Nobel peace prize nominations during the 20th century. Shipwreck Central allows students to search for shipwrecks around the world and to view video clips of some of the world's most famous shipwreck sites.

If you are a science teacher, there are plenty of ways you can work in interactive maps and tracking tools to your lessons. A multimedia presentation from National Geographic and iExplore about the Galapagos Islands is a very good introduction to an ecology or evolution unit. Google Earth also offers some different animal tracking tools that are a good addition to a biology classroom. I know one class that has been tracking falcons and owls all year with a nest cam. The kids have a great time learning what the birds do on a day to day basis. They have also viewed maps and live cameras of the space shuttle and the International Space Station. These are all easy ways to bring real-world context to things you are teaching in class.

If nothing else, look at some of these cool tools for yourself. I certainly had fun figuring out what they could do, and I am excited to see how we can successfully bring the tools into the classroom.


  1. I am loving the Real World Math site that uses Google Earth to teach math! What a neat way for students to apply what can be very abstract concepts to their real world applications.

  2. It is such a neat site. I think students really appreciate real world applications like this. Maybe it will help math teachers answer the question...When will I ever use this in my life?


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