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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Use New Technology to Reinforce Instruction

Mapping a New Course on the Web: Online Maps and Mashups?
Sandy Scragg

Online mapping sites not only make it easier to know how to get from point A to point B, but many new web sites allow you to chart your own course by creating your own customized maps. Some mapping sites, called mashups, allow you to import text, photos, web links, and even audio and video files to help create your personal journey. Satellite imagery has transformed older mapping sites. Borrowing from NASA databases, programs like Google Earth provide incredible detail of locations around the globe with just a few clicks.

Even basic mapping sites have benefited from satellite technology. Using Google Maps, Mapquest, Yahoo Maps, or Microsoft’s Live Search, you can choose to view a particular address using either traditional maps or satellite views. Each site has its own special features, but one of the newest is the “bird’s eye view” on the Microsoft site—it allows a zoom satellite view that is truly astonishing.

So how, exactly, can you make your own customized maps and mashups? Thankfully, it’s easy and free. You can create mashups with a number of sites, most notably Community Walk, Wayfaring, and Your Gmap. These sites are very easy to use and lead you through making a mashup in a step-by-step fashion. No special skills or software is needed. You may need to register, but there’s no cost for making a map.

What do all these innovations mean for your classroom? Mapping sites have applications in nearly all subject areas and on every grade level. For example, have students calculate distance between two places for math class. Students can create a mashup of their neighborhood for a project on community. Ask students to plot points on a map recreating a character’s journey or neighborhood for a literature assignment. Students learning to write a narrative or a first-person story can create a mashup of the locations of events in their lives. Use Google Earth’s topography settings for a geological map for science class. Weather sites and satellite maps can also enrich science class. Students studying architecture can find world buildings and monuments using the satellite view on mapping sites. Using digital maps in a social studies class would greatly enrich every aspect of the curriculum, from geographic and map-reading lessons to demographic statistics from census reports.

To learn more about online mapping sites and software, check out the following web links: 

Google Earth:

Community Walk:


Your Gmap:

Google Maps:

Using Google Maps Mashups in the Classroom:

Microsoft Live Search:

Yahoo Maps:


Sandy Scragg is a consultant forTeachers Network's TeachNet Project. She has been a technology trainer, staff developer, and an English teacher for the New York City Public Schools. Sandy's resources for teachers.

Do you have a question or comment about this article? E-mail Sandy.


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