Hit the Road with Digital Mapping Tools

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Hit the road with

Maps and mapping tools can reach so many content areas and grade levels:

  • Distances and scale in math
  • Geography in social studies
  • Locations of settings of literature in English
  • Physical science (environment, weather, etc.)
  • Culture in world languages
Take your students on the streets almost anywhere in the world with Google Maps Street View. Drag the little yellow man onto the image to explore (see above). (Screenshot taken at maps.google.com)

Take your students on the streets almost anywhere in the world with Google Maps Street View. Drag the little yellow man onto the image to explore. (Click image to see full size.) (Screenshot taken at maps.google.com)

1. Google Maps Street View Street View makes it possible to drop your classroom virtually onto almost any street in the world and walk around. It uses panoramic images that let you turn around, zoom in and walk down roads to check out the scenery. Just grab the little yellow “peg man” and drop him where you’d like to go. (See animation at right.) For practice, try dropping yourself at your doorstep of your school if you’ve never used it before.

Street View includes tons of “Indoor Maps” where you can “walk around” inside buildings. (Click for the full list.) They include:

TOP TOOL: InstantStreetView.com — Find a location using its search bar. Then share a link with students that takes them directly to the street view you want them to see. Save time!

2. Street View Treks Once you’ve seen your school from the curb on Google Maps Street View, take it to the next level with Street View Treks. These custom-produced exploration experiences are awesome for students. They provide information about the location and videos that pair nicely with the panoramic views. Locations include Nepal, Gombe National Park, the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Barrier Reef (a Street View Trek underwater!) and more.

3. Walking tour screencasts — An extension to Street View and Treks is to let students take you on a walking tour of someplace in the world. They do some research and collect some facts about the location first. Then they load up the location using Street View or Treks. They start recording a screencast video (a video of what’s happening on their screen with their microphone recording their voices). Some free screencasting tools: Snagit for Google Chrome (my favorite), Screencast-O-Matic and Screencastify (there are others). Students narrate the tour as they “walk” the streets using Street View or Treks.

4. Google Cultural Institute These virtual tours don’t have to be confined to what you can see from the street. Google Cultural Institute gives you access to top-notch art collections from around the world (Art Project) and modern/ancient world heritage sites (World Wonders). Witness significant moments in history with Historic Moments, giving students a version of a field trip to the past.

wismer map

Kurt Wismer created this map of his travels, complete with year visited and images. Students can create similar custom-built maps with MyMaps. (Screenshot from Kurt Wismer’s map)

5. MyMaps  Creating or viewing an interactive map with images and information can be the next-best thing to visiting a location, and students can create their own. Have students create a map using MyMaps. Select locations, use custom icons, add photos and share. Kurt Wismer’s great resource site for using Google Maps and Google Earth shows you how.

6. Geoguessr This game is like a surprise virtual field trip every time you play. Geoguessr uses Google Maps Street View and places participants in a random location somewhere in the world. By panning around, zooming or “walking” down the street, participants place a pin on a map to guess where they are. The closer they guess, the more points they win. It’s great for critical thinking and using context clues.

7. Smarty Pins Smarty Pins is like Geoguessr’s cousin. Granted, it’s a little less like a virtual field trip, but it does use geography-based questions to play. Participants answer questions by dropping a pin where they think the answer is.



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Matt Miller is available to present at your school or event! He presents to thousands of teachers all around the United States on a wide variety of technology and innovative instruction topics. See his “Work With Matt” page for more details.