Maps and Much More
Years ago, a fourth grade teacher pulled me aside one day and told me that “the key to history is maps: Alexander, Napoleon, Grant. It’s all in maps.” While putting digital maps online is nothing new for teachers, Maps 101 finally takes the big step by linking the maps to history, culture and economics.
The center of attention is the Maps 101 Explorer, which presents students or teachers with a Mercator projection of the globe. You can zoom in and out, pull the map so that what you want is front and center and then click on any place to reveal a variety of resources, from the ecology of the region to detailed diagrams of battles that took place there to the area’s major religions.
It all works well, particularly when using a tablet computer and a projector. Most places have multiple things available. They’re shown as a large thumbnail and as many as 9 smaller ones, making it hard to scan and quickly find what you want. After a little nosing around, I figured that if you click on See All Results, you’ll get a large box that has the resources organized by type.
There are maps galore and a slew of National Geographic videos as well as Spanish language maps. The material is aimed at early learners, middle-schoolers and high schoolers. There’s no shortage of lesson plans and classroom ideas as well as geo-centric games.
My favorite are the site’s animated maps that show changes over time. The ones displaying the movement of troops during the 1940s in the Pacific or which states consumer more hamburgers are true gems that can telegraph information better than text alone.
There’s no software to load and the site works with all the major browsers, although Map 101’s designers suggest Navigator and Internet Explorer. It makes extensive use of Microsoft’s Silverlight and Adobe’s Flash animation and because of the horizontal nature of the maps, a wide-screen projector or monitor works best.
On the downside, every time you get something it opens a new browser window. At the end of a class you can easily have 8 or 10 windows cluttering your machine to close.
Navigation of Maps 101 is quite intuitive, but it has its quirks. For instance, some resources are opened by clicking on the thumbnail while others require that you click on Go to this Resource.
The good news is that it’s all aligned to many of the state’s educational standards. All in all, it’s a big step forward from mapping sites like StrataLogica, and can turn a boring lesson into an interactive extravaganza. At the moment you can’t buy Maps101 for a single user or class, but it costs $600 for the typical school –
a small price to pay for delivering the world and what makes it tick.
$600 per school
+ Great collection of static and interactive maps
+ Video, animation and interactive elements
+ Lots of historical, cultural and economic resources
+ Looks great with projector or large screen monitor
- Navigation can be confusing
- End up with lots of open windows
- No single user version