Google Maps and Personalization

It’s never easy to admit being “late to the party” but for some reason, I haven’t taken full advantage of Google Maps. For whatever reason, perhaps the complexity of Google Earth, or not having the time to learn more about the application, or simply having other tasks to accomplish, I’ve never quite managed to utilize Google Maps very effectively.

That changed on Tuesday. As part of our PLP Exploration, students have been encouraged to explore local summer opportunities related to their interests. Students interested in coding searched for code camps, students interested in sports searched for sports camps, and so on. We started locally, moved to the New England region, and eventually across the United States.

Summer opportunities identified by students and inserted on a shared Google Map.
Summer opportunities identified by students and inserted on a shared Google Map.

It was a great way to get more resources in front of students, identify possible secondary education opportunities (most colleges seem to have vibrant summer programs), and practice skills of digital citizenship. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good way of sharing all this information. Bingo. Google Maps. I did a quick search, used the Help function, and before you know it, I was working with the “new Google Maps”.  The application allows the user to create personalized maps and then to share those maps with others. Users with accounts can create and utilize as many maps as they want, all saved in Google’s My Maps. These maps can then be shared by link or embedded into websites.

I know, I know. Why haven’t I been doing this for years? Good question. However, the My Maps application has immediately developed curriculum changing potential. As students created entries for our shared maps, including an appropriate symbol, brief description, and appropriate resources, the variety of standards and skills required to achieve proficiency jumped out at me. Writing, geography, digital citizenship, and transferable skills were all needed to complete this simple exercise.

Can you imagine having students create personalized maps of their communities, journeys, and studies? What about the integration of art, visual elements, and descriptive writing? The possibilities are limitless. Moving forward, students will be asked to develop personal maps that explore their interests and to put integrate those maps into their PLPs. Better late than never rules the day.

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