Earth Isn’t Flat: Google Goes Global with My Maps
Name of App: My Maps
Type of Technology: Google application, accessed through Google Suite
SAMR Model Rating: Modification/Redefinition, dependent on task
Grade Level: Upper elementary and above
Subject Area: Any and all
Description: My Maps is a cloud-based, multimedia application housed in Google Suite along with Docs, Forms, Sheets, Slides, etc. Students dress up a “base” world map by adding pinpoints on specific locations that can be manipulated to include video clips, images, captions, symbols, and links to other sites or documents. The classroom applications cross disciplines and age groups. Groups can collaboratively edit and design maps that encourage investigative learning and skills practice in organization and presentation of ideas. Maps can be shared with peers as interactive discovery tools in learning centers or for independent review of content, and with teachers for assessment of learning.
… a free tool to measure distances, compare landmasses, get global perspectives, and create multimedia, annotated maps
I used to have my students create two-dimensional, annotated maps to show their understanding of global or regional patterns within a historical period. On paper. With colored pencils. Flat and finite. Such cartography exercises did serve a purpose: students looked more carefully at textbook maps and pieced together their learning through intersecting arrows, hand-drawn symbols, and labels, usually too crowded to read in the end.
Now there’s My Maps, a Google Suite application that has seismically shifted the way my students learn about the intersection between history and geography. There are applications of My Maps in other disciplines – math, science, language arts… In fact, my muse, Helen Murdoch, SBUSD Social Studies and Technology Coach, created an annotated map of her literary journey, pinpointing the settings of the books she’s read, with annotations that include short illustrative passages, book cover images, author and character information, and symbols that reveal cultural details… The possibilities are endless: where in the world was she when she read All the Light We Cannot See, the novel by Anthony Doerr? What global events might have colored her reading and interpretation of the book? All can be annotated verbally and visually on this interactive, digital map: multidimensional and well-rounded.
I can imagine similar maps with a more science or math focus that could be designed to illustrate the world’s biodiversity or ecological challenges and triumphs or locations of plants useful for medical treatments. Students could design the most efficient routes from one location to another, measuring and comparing distances. I’ve used My Maps in a couple of different ways in my AP World History classroom. One involved a single map that the class collectively edited (images below). The other also involved collaboration on maps shared between smaller groups of students. Students can also edit their own individual maps and share them with me. With a short, whole-class demonstration of the toolbar and zoom functions, students are ready to investigate and create. Here’s a 5-minute YouTube tutorial by Google that demonstrates the how-to’s of My Maps.
Below are some images and document links to the activity my students did in already established small groups, but on a whole-class base map I shared with all students via Google. Each group focused on a particular 15th-century world civilization, shading it, naming it, and adding color-coded pins that provided specific information: leader in focus, primary document and analysis, images and captions that demonstrate human interaction with the environment, and even an eight-line “What You Need to Know About Us” piece describing the key accomplishments and uniquenesses of their assigned civilization. Finally, the students took “selfies” of their group and captioned it with their names, so I knew who the authors were. I pre-organized each of these required elements into what My Maps calls “layers” (see left-hand menu in the image below). Students helped each other with the tech navigation, and divided the tasks, investigating information on their cell phones, and using laptops to enter their data on My Maps. To date, there isn’t a My Maps app on iOS devices, so use of laptops or desktops are necessary for map annotation. Color-coding by group/civilization is also essential to help separate each group’s information. Also important: all entries, from lines to polygon shapes they create, must be identified with a caption for easier viewing/navigating. Our collective map became a useful study guide for students’ review and understanding of the 15th-century, post-classical world. Once finished, I created a “View Only” version of it for students to explore other groups’ annotations.
Click the link here to view the student instructions for the collaborative annotated map of 15th century worlds activity. Below is a screen shot of the final result. When you click on the pins, the images, film clips, links, etc., pop up on the screen.
Here is the Scoring Rubric I created on NEO for the collaborative annotated map of 15th-century worlds activity:
My Maps opens a world of educational possibilities. Give it a whirl, and then post how you used My Maps in the classroom with your students!