Monday, September 8, 2008

Interactive Maps and Timelines

Yes, I'm on a maps kick lately, partly because there are so many great map mashups created daily on the Internet, and partly because I just find maps fascinating. Unfortunately, for teachers not all students find maps or timelines interesting. In the pre-Internet world maps and timelines were pretty one dimensional and lacked any interactive capacity. So while they provided some great information, the amount of information each contained was limited by the physical constraints of ink and paper size. Today, teachers and students have a wealth of interactive maps and timelines to use as an educational experience.

Here are three great examples of interactive maps and timelines.
1. Animated Atlas has a free map that shows the growth of United States. As you drag the cursor across the timeline at the bottom of the Animated Atlas the states appear in sequence. Clicking on each state in the Animated Atlas reveals some basic information about that state.

2. Learner.org features five interactive map activities. The activities include quizzes based on each map as well as learning tutorials connected to each map.

3. The most interesting and probably the best interactive map and timeline combination I've seen is found on the digital history website produced by the University of Houston. The Digital History Interactive Map and Timeline combination provides information for each year in North America since 1590. The information is categorized as political, social/ economic, or cultural. As you drag the cursor across the timeline more information appears. Information is represented by a small symbol. Clicking on one of the symbols reveals the story. Below is a screen shot of the Digital History Interactive Map.

















Applications for Education
Interactive maps and timelines are great resources for having students explore a broad topic independently. One of the ways that I've used interactive timelines in the past is as a jumping-off point for students to start an independent (or group) research project. Using a tool like an interactive map or timeline gives students an opportunity to try out or explore a number of topics in a short time before jumping into one specific topic. The interactive maps that are connected to quizzes are useful review tools for students studying at home or outside of your classroom.