Although I have used different mapping tools for personal use, I have only used Google Maps for the first time this year and I don’t really think it was too successful. After looking through all of the different links, I find myself wanting to work with classroom teachers on a few of these websites to help students connect themselves to the world around them.
After helping to teach the Stories Module to 1st graders, I wish this topic had come up before since the stories take the students around the world. Although I created a Google Map that had the countries pinned and the story title, I think I could have made it better had I understood more about Google Maps. The module asks the teacher to use a map and point out the locations for each story but it doesn’t really have any connection to those countries beyond a pin on the map. It would be great to provide students with pictures from each location in ancient and modern times to connect to how different places are around the world.
I looked through HistoryPin and was fascinated by all the photographs of grandparents that have been uploaded. What a great way to honor someone while at the same time providing a snapshot of time across many generations and places. This site would be useful for teaching primary sources about historical and current events.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that someone had added photos for Oswego, NY on WhatWasThere. Last year, a 4th grade teacher had her student complete research on places of interest in Oswego. She went around to different landmarks and took pictures for students to use. A way to integrate students in this process would be for them to take a walking tour and take pictures themselves. Also, it would be fun for them to take pictures of the same places already uploaded and add their pictures from today. The town has changed extensively since the photos on the site and I think the students would be fascinated to see the changes. Student could also ask friends and families for pictures to be scanned and added to the website. This would be a good way to teach them to take pride in the place where they live.
Students love to use Google Earth to look for their homes and to see the homes of their friends. Since many of my students do a report on animals, I am intrigued by the National Geographic layer and how it can be used to learn more about the animal kingdom.
Lastly, I played around with GeoGuessr. In order to get the most out of this game, I think you have to either have a lot of knowledge about the world or no knowledge at all. Why? In the first, you can learn how well you know what areas around the world look like and how similar areas are along latitude lines. In the second, you can learn all about the different areas around the world and expand your world view. Many of my students have never been out of New York let alone out of the country. This would give them an easy introduction into how other people live in both cities and rural areas. You could have students play the game online but also have a written part where they had to explain why they chose the location and what clues they used from the pictures (road signs, type of tree, mountains, etc…).
Only time will tell how useful these websites are in my teaching. With the use of the Modules in my district I believe I am going to have to fight an uphill battle to get teachers to step outside the Module box and work with me on something that isn’t specifically scripted from the state. As the world becomes more global, I think it is essential that we teach students a global and not just a local perspective and these mapping tools can definitely open up a whole new world to my students.