Why Maps?

We all know about maps, right? You know, Google Maps. We all use Maps to figure out how to get somewhere, what’s the best route, or how long it will take. I remember that first time, at a Cue Conference, when a collegue showed me that if you type “nearby pizza” into Google on a phone, you would get a map to a nearby pizza place! I have been hooked ever since. But do you use Google Maps in the classroom?

Last week I was working with some high school Social Science teachers in a professional development session on integrating technology into the classroom. The subject of Maps came up. “Why would you use Google Maps in the classroom? Where is the curricular standard in finding the quickest route to San Jose?” The teacher raised a legitimate question.

I had a simple answer. Social Science teachers are concerned with events that happened in the past. Every event that ever occurred, since the beginning of time, happened someplace. Every event had a location, and that location can be displayed on a map. And maps that show where events occurred tell stories. Why not have kids write these stories, collaboratively? Why not have kids share these maps with each other and the world? When kids make their own maps of events they can then see trends and relationships between the events, acquiring a deeper understanding of the events, and having an opportunity to write also!

We then spent some time collaboratively building some maps. We started with a Google sheet. Whoa there Mr. Hall you may say, I thought you said maps, now you are talking about spreadsheets! Yeah, we built a spreadsheet, one column was the name of a WWI event, the next column had the coordinates of that event, and the third contained a description of the event. This is where the students do their writing. Directly in the spreadsheet. All of the teachers were writing in the spreadsheet at the same time. It worked wonderfully. Then I imported the spreadsheet into Maps, and boom, we had a map!

I can’t wait to see the maps these teachers students create!

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