LOST (1)

This month’s T3 meeting occurred during our school’s celebration of Earth Week, specifically on a “Black” Day, the day where the school attempts to conserve energy and practice sustainable methods, and ironically–

We had a blackout.

And the Google Slides presentation was online. And Google MyMaps was online. And the GIS resources were online. The Ed Tech Representative presenter of this month’s T3 meeting, Ms. Sarah Bremer, was incredibly quick on her feet and improvised (as teachers do) without much worry or thought. Out came a gigantic box of paper maps, which were just as engaging and effective in facilitating meaningful conversation.

Sarah shared a wealth of knowledge in cartography and free resources available to educators. We shared PBS map frustrations (which we learned not all was lost), ogled over the potential in Google Arts & Culture 360° walkthroughs, but mostly I was amazed by how seamlessly she facilitated conversations that allowed departments from Religion, Geo-History, and World Languages to connect over the topic of “Teaching with Maps”.

Presentation by Ms. Sarah Bremer

How do our teachers currently use maps?

  • Google Maps. Clicking on various points to locate and interpret regional and geographic information.
  • Tracing. Drawing maps by hand – I was most surprised by Sarah’s mini history lesson on John Snow’s cholera map in the 17th century that identified the causes of the cholera outbreak.
  • ESRIUsing maps to analyze and investigate the Dustbowl, D-Day, Pearl Harbor, etc. Students can build story tours (ex: Berkeley Street Art, Jewish Culture in Palm Springs, etc).
  • Google Tour Builder. Similar to MyMaps, students can create visually appealing tours. Sample prompt: Choose an urban/suburban/rural neighborhood that you’d like to complete a field study in, and create a tour with Tour Builder.
  • New York Times. Visualizing data using data from the US census.

While most of the uses were more superficial in terms of map-building and map-reading, one of the questions that came up was:

How can teachers use maps on a deeper level?

As a group, we put our heads together and here’s what we came up with:

  • Shift the focus of the maps from simply “identifying points of interest” to “identifying and analyzing the impacts of those points of interest”.
  • Assign groups to work on a specific layer of the map to build a class map.
  • Find multi-subject connections to help students gain a holistic view of a concept. For example: The Exodus migration in Hebrew Scriptures shares common themes in a Geo-History class on Human Geography.
  • Submit a draft of map content (captions, pictures, etc.) in Google Docs first so that the teacher can give feedback prior to the actual map-building part.

However, map-making goes beyond adding points on a static image. The meaning that comes through a map can be framed in this critical thinking approach:

  1. What patterns do you notice?
  2. What inferences can you make? And why does it exist?
  3. What implications can you draw?

Now what?

As a group, we wanted to continue this conversation, so we’ll be meeting again in a couple weeks to cover the technical aspects of Google MyMaps (and other GIS resources) and finding ways to work interdepartmentally.

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