Thursday, October 13, 2016

Exploring with Google Maps

This week we are learning about characteristics of maps.  As I was preparing my lesson plans, I tried to remember the last time that I used a paper map.  Truthfully, I think the last map I used was at the zoo.  When I am driving, I rely on Google Maps.  Therefore, I thought this was a great opportunity to introduce the students to how maps have evolved.  Of course, we will look at maps on paper, but today we focused on maps that can be used on the computer.

Last week, I sent home a sheet asking the parents for help with this project.  I asked them to write down their home address and a special place of interest.  I wanted the students to search for locations that were familiar to them.  I also added the school because it was a place that I knew they would be successful in finding.

The purpose of the note was to promote independence among students as they are searching for places with Google Maps.  However, some of the parents filled out the information for the students, and the students still had to ask me for help because they could not read their parent's handwriting.  Next time I send the note, I am going to ask the students to write the information themselves.  

The students loved exploring with Google Maps. I gave a quick mini lesson about how to search in Google Maps and how to turn on Street View.  I assigned a link to Google Maps in Google Classroom, and the students were off exploring.  It was amazing to see how quiet and engaged the students were because they were excited to find their special places on the map.

When using technology, I have learned that you have to let students go where their interests lead them.  Some stayed on track looking up their address while others just started exploring.  Even though this was not my intention, I had to let my control go.  All students were exploring with maps, and that was the purpose of the lesson.

It is amazing the things that the students teach you when they are free to explore technology.  One student started searching random places.  He started in California and then ended up in Las Vegas.  Another student had zoomed out so far from her house that she saw an aerial view of Earth.  Some students found their house, turned on street view, and started following the road to a familiar place such as a nearby restaurant.  Who knew that Google Maps offered so many learning opportunities for students.

One cool thing that a lot of the students did was change the map to terrain view.  This was a neat experience because students were able to see elevations of mountains and density of vegetation in the area.  I think when we learn about landforms, we will use Google Maps to look up some well known mountain ranges and different national parks.    

Since we live in a rural area, street view was not available for some of the student's houses.  These students were super disappointed but were easily redirected when I told them to look up our school.  They became happy again when they were successful finding the school.  Sonic was another popular location that was easy for the students to find, and some of the students figured out that you could do a virtual tour of the local burger place in our city.

Overall, I was happy with our experience with Google Maps.  I think the students will enjoy exploring landforms in the future.  I am also contemplating adding Google Maps as a free choice activity on the Chromebooks.  

Download the parent letter here.

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