Monday, February 3, 2014

How to Create Placemarks, Layers, and Polygons in Google Maps Engine Lite

Google Maps is a versatile tool that I've been using with students and sharing with teachers for years now. From simple virtual scavenger hunts to literature journeys to analyzing data in a geographic context, Google Maps has a lot of applications in the classroom.

Last summer Google unveiled Google Maps Engine Lite for creating custom maps. This tool will eventually replace the old custom maps option that is still available if you revert to Classic Google Maps. One of Google Maps Engine Lite's more noteworthy features is support of multiple layers on one map.

Creating multiple layers on your map is completely optional but there are quite a few good uses of maps with multiple layers.
  • Multiple layers could be used for showing data differences on a year over year or month over month basis. 
  • You could display the same data with different base layers for comparison. 
  • Students working collaboratively on a map can be responsible for editing their own layers on the same map. 
  • If you’re using Google Maps Engine Lite to have students create literature trips (look here for inspiration), they can create a different layer for each chapter of a book. 
  • Students mapping the history of an event like the U.S. Civil War could create a different layer for each year of the war.
Google Maps Engine Lite supports importing and mapping data via spreadsheets. This was previously possible if you used a Google Spreadsheet Gadget like Map-A-List, but the native support in Google Maps Engine Lite makes this easier than ever. As long as your spreadsheet meets the following minimum standards, you will be able to have the data mapped for you. 
  • Your spreadsheet should have three columns. 
    •  Names of places. 
    • Location (City and State or postal code or latitude and longitude coordinates). 
    • Description (information you want displayed within the placemark).
The Google Slides presentation below offers step-by-step directions for creating placemarks, layers, and polygons in Google Maps Engine Lite. Directions for sharing and embedding the maps are included at the end. (Use full screen mode to see all of the directions on the slides).

If you would like a copy of these slides, please open the editor (click the gear icon) then make a copy in your Google Drive account. Complete directions for that process are available here

For those who like to learn more about Google Maps and Google Earth, Google offers a self-paced course available with video-based and or text-based lessons