Google MyMaps is one of the apps that doesn't get the love and recognition it deserves. If you've never given it a go, I encourage you to. Today is all about an introduction ... an exploration ... a discovery. Next week, I'll share more specific ideas and lessons you can use MyMaps with.
From a young age, maps, globes, and anything to do with geography has fascinated me. On the rare occasions my family went on road trips, my parents would get a TripTik from AAA. The path would be highlighted and we'd follow it. I loved opening the map and looking at all the connections and cities and roads and landmarks. (Folding them up was an adventure in itself!) This goes right along with the nerdy history buff in me.
I've had the opportunity to share MyMaps with both 3rd & 4th graders over the past year. This is an amazing age to share this tool - they are super inquisitive and have had enough exposure to Google tools that it allows for guided exploration. It also allowed me to share the tool with their teachers so they'd feel more comfortable with it.
Each time I introduced MyMaps, I follow the same lesson plan. (Feel free to use this in your own class.)
- Prepare a completely empty MyMaps, with the share setting edit-able by anyone with the link.
- You can create & house MyMaps directly in Google Drive
- Use a URL shortener to make an easy link to type in (I prefer bit.ly)
- BEFORE sharing the MyMap, have a short discussion with the class. I strive to build on prior knowledge, so I ask if anyone had ever used MyMaps before (usually no one) and then ask about using maps or GPS (usually everyone had some interaction).
- Next, tell them we are going to use a Google App called MyMaps and that it would be collaborative.
- Insert short discussion about what it means to work collaboratively ... never a bad conversation to have
- Then, write the shortened URL on the board and have them type it in. This gives them a little exposure to typing in URL's, but in a meaningful way.
- As students pop into the map, I give them time to explore as I ensure all students are able to get to the link.
At this point, the students are having their own conversations with those around them. I encourage a discovery period and love that they naturally share their discoveries. Since we are only in the intro stage, even if they "do" something, it'l just add to the learning experience. It can't hurt anything.
After a few minutes, I call out to have them put their hands on their heads. This allows us to move to a whole class discussion. I ask them to share what they've found out about MyMaps in the last few minutes. I also encourage them to look at their screen and identify similar tools they have seen in other Google applications, too. Depending on how much they point out, I might need to focus their attention on the share settings, the zoom in/out, or the toolbar. It's pretty impressive to see how much they can learn in a few minutes.
Here comes the fun part ...
We get really active inside the map. As I circulate the room, I encourage students to help their neighbors, but not to do it for them. I ask them to locate a place on the map they might like to visit on a vacation. We locate the "pin" and we drop it onto our vacation spot. I walk them through changing the name of the pin to their name and then saving it. I remind them we are working collaboratively and ask them to refresh the page. The sounds of surprise as their classmates pins show up is awesome! [You see, MyMaps isn't "live" as the other Google Apps are, you need to refresh to see others work.] They are now locating their classmates vacation spots!
To wrap up this first lesson, we find our own pin again, and when we click on it, we talk about all the tools available. We can change the pin color, change the icon (who wants to stay a boring blue pin when you can be a tornado in lime green???); we also add a description - a 1 sentence reason why you selected this location as vacation spot; and we can even add pictures. Once again, refresh your page, and now you can explore everyone's vacation spot with reasons, updated pins, and possibly a photo or two.
You might be reading this and thinking, ok, but this isn't really doing anything more than playing with a new tool. And I'd agree. Let's discover and play with the tools while teaching students the basics. Next week, I'll be back and I'll share some - what I think are - cool ways to incorporate the use of MyMaps in your classroom. You might be surprised ... they aren't all for the social studies class!
Have a question or comment? Feel free to comment below, reach out to me on Twitter @kiefersj, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.