Have Students Collaborate on Maps with Google My Maps
Mapping is a necessary skill in any social studies classroom. As a teacher, I’ve found that when it comes to mapping, collaboration is tough. Giving a map to a group for collaboration usually means one-two students doing the work of mapping, while the remaining two-three students sit idly and have side conversations. This problem makes collaborative mapping difficult to do as a learning activity. Fear no longer, welcome to the world of Google My Maps.
Google My Maps, what is it?
Google My Maps is an online mapping tool, that allows students to create and share their own maps. This tool allows students to drop pins at certain locations throughout a map and provide a description of that pin. Students can add different layers for different regions or topics. Other features available to use in My Maps are drawing a line between multiple locations, adding directions to get to a location, and measuring the distance between locations. Students can all be on the same map simultaneously, collaborating on locating different locations to drop pins on or measure.
Using MyMaps in the Classroom
My Maps is best for having students share and work on the same maps together. The map on the left is an example of a My Map that students collaborated together on as a part of station rotation group in my blended learning classroom. Students collaborated together to map out the significant regions of the Middle Ages to Europe and areas that had an influence on Europe. I’ve also used My Maps in the classroom to map out areas of cultural significance in Ancient Civilizations. Students in my sixth-grade class collaborated on different layers of a My Map to map areas around the world today that show the cultural impact of Ancient Civilizations. My goal is to use My Maps in a collaborative setting more often to plot out significant historical regions of the past but to also connect areas of historical significance in our modern world.
Lessons learned using MyMaps in the classroom?
My Maps is a relatively new feature to my classroom, but I have already learned a lot in my first few attempts. In my first go around I learned a lot. First thing, in order to have student collaborate more effectively, I should have had students define their roles in the group explicitly. I didn’t do this, and the result was many students dropping pins in locations that were already previously pinned.
Second, my groupings were too large for effective collaboration. Great collaborative groups are between 4-5 students, I had 7-9 students in a group. This was not effective in getting students to meet the desired results. Keeping the collaborative groups smaller will allow for more defined roles throughout the task and a better learning experience for the students. Lastly, Google My Maps can be posted to your Google Classroom stream from your Google Drive, just make sure your directions are very clear. Give students very clear directions when posting this to your Classroom stream to allow students a clear vision of what the purpose of this learning activity is.
Using My Maps isn’t only for a social studies classroom either. Teachers can use My Maps for measuring out distances between multiple points in math class. Use My Maps in science to plot points of different climates or trends in weather. Reading an interesting novel in class? Have students map out places in the novel and describe the significance of those regions. This tool allows students to connect learning across multiple subjects.
In conclusion, Google My Maps is a great way to have students collaborate during the mapping process. Not only does this application have use in the social studies classroom, but across multiple subjects as well. Google My Maps is an excellent way for students to connect regions on a map to real-world learning and application. I hope that you give this application a try! Drop your thoughts on My Maps here in this Padlet, or share how you’ve used this tool best in your classroom.
Middle School Social Studies and Language Arts Teacher