Friday, February 12, 2010

Google Maps Labs - Try the Newest Options

Earlier today Google announced the launch of Google Maps Labs. Labs is generally the "code name" for new products and features that Google is testing out by letting anyone them try them. In Google Maps Labs you will find nine new features that Google is letting anyone try. Of the nine, I found five that could have an immediate use in classroom settings; Where in the World, Aerial Imagery, Drag n' Zoom, LatLng Tool Tip, and Rotatable Maps.

Aerial Imagery is only available in some areas right now, but in the places where it is available I found it to be a nice intermediate step between satellite imagery and street view imagery.

Drag n' Zoom
provides and easier way to zoom-in on an area than clicking or using the zoom slider. With Drag n' Zoom activated all you need to do is draw a box around the area you wish to see in detail and Google Maps sends you there. This is an improvement over having to make sure that you're map is centered while you zoom and readjusting as you get closer to your target area.

LatLng Tool Tip is just an addition to your cursor that indicates the latitude and longitude coordinates of any place your cursor is hovering over.

Rotatable Maps allows you to spin the orientation of your map 360 degrees, just like you can in Google Earth. This could be handy in a geography classroom if you were trying to demonstrate different perspectives of maps.

Finally, Where in the World is a geography game that asks players to identify places by looking at satellite imagery. A placemarker is placed on an image and you're given ten seconds to correctly identify the palce that is marked. You can zoom-in or zoom-out to get a better perspective, but you better do it quickly or you'll be timed-out.

You can access all of the new Google Maps Labs by going to Google Maps and clicking on the "Labs" link that appears in the upper-right corner of your screen.

Applications for Education
Where in the World could be a fun way for students to practice indentifying countries and continents. Drag n' Zoom could improve the accessibility of Google Maps for some students. Aerial Imagery may be useful for giving students a "lay of the land" perspective on some places that aren't terribly clear in satellite imagery.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Place Spotting - Challenging Geographic Riddles
Find Country - Improve Your Geographic Knowledge
Quikmaps - Quickly Customize a Google Map