UkEdMag: Using Maps to Stimulate by @Ideas_Factory

Many of us dream of exploring the world, yet many distractions or barriers in life stop the adventurer within us travelling much further beyond our own country. Technology now allows for a second-best with lots of map based websites and apps that can allow you to explore most of our planet – Google maps have even started ‘street viewing’ the Great Barrier Reef formations. In this extract, from the June 2014 edition of UKEdMagazine, Julian Woods (aka @Ideas_Factory) explains how he has used such websites with his pupils to stimulate learning and writing in his class.

I kind of agreed with this, but also knew of loads of great ways that I have used Google Earth, Maps and StreetView in my classroom. Maybe people only used it to look at their houses because they weren’t aware of all the great resources out there. In this article I’ll showcase some of the brilliant resources that will definitely stimulate learning, especially writing, in your class.

I teach in the top 2% most deprived areas in Europe, the students have a paucity of imagination because of their lack of experience, missed opportunities to visit places and having very little background of wider reading. They don’t tend to watch the Discovery Channel either!

So it’s with little surprise that they fail to be ignited when the teacher stands in front of them and tells them that they have just climbed the largest mountain in the world (Did we drive up?) and are now standing at the tallest point on Earth (I’ve been to the top of Blackpool tower). Could they now describe what they are looking at? (No) Could they write about they’re amazing journey? (Not really) and could they write a detailed description of the top? (No chance).

Why do we as educators make the same mistakes? Are we trying to test how badly they could write about something? It’s not the  students fault, when the nearest they’ve ever travelled is to the City Centre, they just haven’t the experience or the knowledge to formulate an accurate picture for their imagination to work. It’s not just those poorer students who suffer from this, for most pupils the top of Mount Everest might as well be an alien planet hundreds of light years away.

That’s the beauty of today’s internet – the World Wide Web should be renamed Wherever, Whatever, Whoever because with the web you can visit places on this Earth (and beyond) that most of us will never have a chance to visit in the flesh in our lifetimes.

Who needs imagination when you can actually go there!

woods1After mapping the world (well the places that will let them) with their streetview car, Google have now turned their attention to places that their car can’t get to. They called this Google Treks and use a backpack 360 camera to capture these places.

They’ve included some fascinating places-The Great Barrier Reef and the Galapagos Islands Trek gives the viewer the opportunity to venture underwater and really explore aquatic life.

For the Great Barrier Reef, you actually enter the sea from a beach in Google Streetview!

Imagine using this a stimulus for writing about an underwater kingdom or using Finding Nemo as a complimentary learning topic-complete engagement of pupils.

Wanting your students to write factfiles of some of the worlds great wonders-Google has that covered too. Explore the Eifel Tower, the Taj Mahal, the canals of Venice and even the tallest building on the planet, the Burj Kalifa.

Google also have a wonderful ‘World Wonders’ website where you can explore Stonehenge and the banks of the river Seine in Paris, amongst many others.

Google have used Treks to map some of natures great places.

Want to travel up Japan’s Mount Fuji, explore the Grand Canyon in America, walk along the Colorado River or the Amazon Basin? You can!

Want to see the nature in Churchill (Canada’s capital of Polar Bears) or see the Arctic at Iqalut-you can!

Talking of nature and especially animals, there are a number of animal tracking websites that will allow students to look at the movement of animals in real time. Fascinating when teaching about migration or nocturnal animals. You can imagine the students faces when they see just how far an animal travels around when seeing it on a map.

woods3You can see Polar Bears with BearTracker and  view the movement of Jaguars and many other species with the WWF wildlife tracker. These animals even have names and I have used this resource to ask the students to write about the day in the life of Naipi the Jaguar.

There are also quite a few Shark trackers and one of the best is Ocearch, where you can see the migration of sharks and it gives plenty of details of each tagged animal.

Google Maps Views is a place where people upload their 360 photographs (photos that are scrollable through 360 degrees, giving the viewer an in-depth feel to the location)

You can click on any place pin to access these and there are even a view surprises.

Click on the pin in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and you get a panoramic view of the International Space Station-complete with photo of astronauts.

Panorama photos are great for taking pupils to places that they would never be able to visit. Using the Screencast-O-matic screen recorder website you can create a pretty realistic walk on the moon. Especially when on they have loads of photos (together with actual sounds from the landings) of every….

Click here to continue reading this article free in the June 2014 Edition of UKEdMagazine | Images courtesy of Google images – used in line with guidelines.



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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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