Using Google Maps in your History Class<br />Annabel Astbury<br />History Teachers’ Association of Victoria<br />
This article accompanies the video: <br />“Google Maps for History Teachers”<br />http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI5_x_6K-A0<br />
From Analogue to Digital – Be careful! You might just learn something about learning on the way! <br />In 2005, The Department of Veteran Affairs and the Board of Studies NSW published a fantastic resource called ‘Operation Click: Anzac to Kokoda – Investigating Australia’s wartime history with the websites Visit Gallipoli and Australia’s War 1939 – 1945<br />In 2005, the types of skills highlighted as favourable by the resource were:<br />Needless to say, our students have come a long way since then. <br />With the range of digital resources and tools that are now available, and free to use, it’s time to ensure that students are prepared so that they are able to use them. <br />This resource made me think about the type of skills we expect students to have in our history classroom. Yes, we want our history students to be digitally literate – but do we want that at the expense of their historical knowledge, skills and understanding? Of course not, but there has to be a much wider acceptance that digital literacy is embedded, not separate, part of students’ learning in today’s classrooms. <br />
How we used to do it in the olden days ...<br />When I looked through some textbooks, I found the following tasks, almost invariably at the beginning of a unit of work. The tasks set here have a purpose – for students to ‘know’ the area that they are studying. For example:<br /><ul><li> View the maps on the website and then locate Anzac Cove and Gallipoli using an atlas”
Find these places on the map and put the number beside each.
Find and highlight on the map the places mentioned in the table.
draw in the modern borders and add the names of the countries that are there today.
Locate ‘x’ on the map. Which direction is it from your house? </li></ul>I am not suggesting that asking students to locate a place on a map is a bad thing. Students need to be geographically aware, especially when learning about the past. However, I do not think that the task “Locate x on a map”, in isolation, assists in the process of historical understanding. <br />Students are used to this sort of task because they appear time and again in text books. And, often these type of questions appear in isolation. <br />
What’s the solution? <br />An annotated map exercise<br />The remedy to this problem would be to set a task such as an annotated map exercise – where students can still demonstrate their knowledge by including dates, times and locations on a map but then locate, perhaps, other resources, and provide some brief annotations or explanations. <br />Annotated maps are great because we can combine the idea of geographical and historical understanding in one. Students enjoy creating annotated maps because they aren’t simply ‘locating x on a map’. <br />In an analogue classroom, we may give students an outline of a map and ask them to annotate it. <br />In a digital classroom, we can use a digital map, annotate with references from a much broader scope than the books or textbooks in a school library and have a fluid document that can change, be added to or be a truly collaborative effort. <br />
Use Google Maps for your next Annotated Map Exercise<br />This video explains how to get started using Google Maps<br />http://earth.google.com/outreach/tutorial_mymaps.html<br />By placing landmarks, writing content, making links to outside sources, your annotated map becomes very rich in resources. <br />In Google Maps, an annotation that accompanies a land mark can look like the image to the left here.<br />
Task Objectives<br />Of course, like any task, the digital annotated map needs to be well planned and have clear objectives. <br />Some ‘tasks’ that you could set for your students might include:<br /><ul><li>Sequencing events.
Collection of evidence to support an argument.
Analysis of evidence. </li></ul>Also, when you create a map in ‘Google Maps’ you can easily make it into a ‘layer’ so that it can be viewable in Google Earth. <br />Google Maps to Google Earth in one click!<br />
Approaches for teachers<br />An annotated map exercise is a task that has to be well-scaffolded. That is, you cannot just have an instruction such as “Make an annotated map of the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915”. Creating an annotated map this way, not only challenges students’ historical thinking skills, but also challenges their digital literacy skills as well. <br />Your annotated map exercise might be planned into four stages:<br />Stage One: Locations and dates<br />Stage Two: Description of event at each location and date.<br />Stage Three: Select an appropriate image / document which related to the location and date. <br />Stage Four: Analysis of image or document. <br />
Other ideas and approaches<br />Approach 1: Teachers could establish the basic map for the students including basic details ‘Date’ / ‘Event’ with a view to getting students to elaborate on event details, significance and to select appropriate documents.<br />Whilst this seems to be the logical way to begin – it does require quite a bit of autonomy. It has been my experience that if students don’t have the basic skills for locating information for a topic, not to mention the skills of being able to discern what is valuable information and what isn’t, then the quality of work produced on the topic will be low. However, maybe this approach could be used once students have had experience in this sort of task and have acquired more skills and confidence in collecting information. <br />Approach 2: Assign an event / date as a small group activity<br />Students in the small group could first collate information on the assigned point / event. Presented with a variety of documents – preferably online – they could read for the basic knowledge that they need for the exercise then compare and contrast views which will lead to more sophisticated analysis of the event or period. <br />
Approach 3: Teachers could establish the basic map for the students including basic details ‘Date’ / ‘Event’ and provide students with documents to analyse.<br />The teacher could include cross-references to other web resources. Instead of just creating a list of the resources to give to the students, why not set up a social bookmarking service that you can invite your students to use? For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this sort of tool, imagine if you could share your bookmarks or ‘favourites’ not just with people who happened to use your computer but with everyone who had access to the internet. Instead of just keeping your bookmarks to yourself, you would be sharing them with like-minded people. <br />Diigo is one such social bookmarking service. It allows you to set up an ‘educator’ account so that you and your students are in a protected environment. In it, you can set up a list of readings or resources for your students to use. The advantage of this being that you can have some control over what resources the students are using or can have access to. This is sound practice at the beginning of a unit because the task of “finding information on the internet” is not presented as this huge, amorphous task. Once the students have started to make their annotations, you will find that they will then use their natural curiosity to establish more complex research patterns and produce sources of their own. <br />
I learned some interesting things about my own learning when I created this task. <br />The reason why I chose the Boston Tea Party was because I asked a colleague: “Quick, give me an event in the American Revolution that you could create a timeline for!” “The Boston Tea Party” was her response hence, here is the map I created.<br />I had taught a brief survey of the American Revolution in an Australian classroom and admit that I knew the basic lead up to the event and why it was significant. <br />However, as I was creating this example I found that I started asking more and more questions and discovering more and more about the Boston Tea Party – where was Griffin’s Wharf? Who was involved? What sort of person then was the mayor? And as I was creating the task I found that, almost by default, I learned much more than the basics.<br />More importantly it made me want to know more – what was the next part of the story – after all, the ‘grand narratives’ form an exciting part of studying history. <br />Gain historical knowledge<br />With a digital annotated map your students:<br />Locate Historical Sources<br />Analyse and evaluate historical sources<br />
I think that if questioning of historical sources is modeled and practiced in a classroom, then students will start to use the same techniques in their gaining of historical knowledge and understanding. <br />The map in itself then could be used for the basis of a wider historical investigation and the development of skills related to historical understanding.<br />And, because the map is in a digital format, it is something that the students can return to and amend in the later stages of the project as the development of their understanding and skills increase. <br />Please feel free to view one of the maps I have created at http://www.tinyurl.com/qj27ka<br />