Monday, September 8, 2008

View the Travels of Macro Polo

Here is a great use of Google Maps that I found through my Twitter network. Rachel Leow has created a very detailed Google Map highlighting Marco Polo's travels. Rachel has also created a RSS feed that you can subscribe to in order to receive updates to the map as they are made. Rachel is adding to the map as she reads through The Travels of Marco Polo.

Applications for Education
This map is a great example of how Google Maps can be used as part of a history or literature course. As I mentioned in my podcast last week, an interesting way to incorporate mapping into a literature course is to have students map the places a character visits in the course of a story.

Google Brings Old Newspapers Online

Today, Google announced on their official blog that they are undertaking a new project to digitize and make available online 200 years of newspapers. Obviously, the project will take a long time to complete, but you can see the beginnings of their work online now. Google seems to be bringing the newspapers online by focusing significant world events like Neil Armstrong's moon walk before moving on to smaller stories. Try searching for "titanic located" and you will find this copy of the St. Petersburg Times story from Saturday, August 16, 1980. So far the options are fairly limited, but eventually this will be a great resource for teachers and students.

Applications for Education
The Google News newspaper archives will eventually make more old newspapers available to teachers and students than can be found in even the best high school microfiche collections.

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. 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.