This “The Best…” list is focusing on two types of map-making sites on the web.
One type allows you or your students to add personal, historical, and/or information and observations to a basic world or local map. Creating maps online at these sites can be excellent learning activities for English Language Learners and all students. “Markers” or “push-pins” can indicate with text and images places visited and routes taken on a field trip; battles fought in a war; key milestones in the life of a student or a famous figure; highlighting key natural disasters around the world — and these are just a few examples.
The other type of map-making site is geared more towards the visual portrayal of demographic information. The information used in these sites is sometimes contributed by users of the site. For purposes of this list, though, and for the type of activity that is more likely to be done by my students, I’m primarily interested in sites that allow students to easily create maps representing data that is already accessible on the site. Students can then either take a screenshot or embed the map in a teacher/student blog or website, and then write their own analysis of the information portrayed.
The key to making to making either kind of map-making activity work, I believe, is the accessibility of the map-making application. There are a ton of map-making sites out there, but I think many of them are far more complicated than they need to be.
In order to make this “The Best…” list, the first kind of map-making site I described must be easy to use, allow any image to be inserted quickly from the Web (except for one), and host the completed map with a link and/or allow the map to be embedded.
For the second kind, the site must be easy to use and have a fair amount of data already available to users of the site.
Sites Where You Can Add Personal, Historical, Or Information And Observations To A Map
To tell the truth, for my purposes and the purposes of my students, I really can’t find substantial differences between the sites listed here (except, perhaps, the fact that some allow you to draw on them — but I don’t think that’s a real big deal). They all meet the stated criteria. The primary difference, it seems to me, is that some require registration and others do not. I tend to favor the ones without that requirement just because it makes things a bit easier for students.
Because of that lack of difference, however, I’m not going to describe each one.
Here are my picks for The Best Map-Making Sites On The Web:
Google Maps. If you want more details on how to use this particular application, you can go to the Google Maps User Guide or watch a good screencast from the Library Journal. (NOTE: Google has now made some dramatic updates to Google Maps)
Tripline just opened for business, and it’s a great map-making application. You just list the various places you want to go in a journey, or a famous trip that has happened in history or literature, or a class field trip itinerary, and a embeddable map is created showing the trip where you can add written descriptions and photos. You can use your own photos or just search through Flickr. Plus, you can pick a soundtrack to go with it as it automatically plays through the travels.
It’s super-easy to use, and the only tricky part is that you can’t add photos until after you create your trip and save it. That’s not a big deal, unless you couldn’t figure it out like me and had to contact the site.
Thanks to Richard Byrne for finding another nice web tool, ikiMap. I’d encourage you to read his post to learn more about it — it lets you easily create maps and, what I particularly like, you can insert images off the web just by using their url addresses.
Meograph lets you tell a story with text, photos, videos, and audio narration. Richard Byrne has written about it a couple of times, so I’d suggest you read how he describes it. In many ways, it seems similar to Tripline, which I’ve previously posted about. Tripline seems a bit easier, though, for students and others to use, though Meograph does look impressive.
Map Tales is a pretty cool application that lets you create “map-based stories.” Students can easily use them to document historical eras, literary journey, even their own immigration saga. It’s very easy to use. Here’s an example using the book, “Around The World in Eighty Days”:
Heganoo looks like a very nice and easy online map-making site. After a quick registration (though I never received a confirmation email, but was still able to use the site without it) you can identify any location or locations on a map and make it a point-of-interest where you can add text, links and, most importantly as far as I’m concerned, an image by just pasting its url address. That ability to add an image via web address is a bit unusual for map-making sites.
REGISTRATION NOT REQUIRED:
Quik Maps doesn’t let you add images, but I’m including it here just because it’s so easy to use and allows you draw on it, too.
U Mapper is the newest addition to this list. It’s simple to use, lets you grab images off the Web to add to your map and, best of all, doesn’t require any registration. Plus, it has a feature that lets you create your own geography game relatively easily (though I had some difficulties with it).
Scribble Maps is a neat application that lets you create maps — with markers and images that can be grabbed off the Internet — and you can draw on it, too. Plus, no registration is required.
You can easily make a map with multiple markers and descriptions at Mapfaire. No registration is required. You can’t add images right now, but apparently that feature is in their future plans. (Even though you don’t have to register for the site, you must be signed into Google in order to use the service.)
Sites That Allow The Visual Portrayal Of Demographic Information
Here again, I think there are several that are very similar, so I’ll just list them without a description:
Google has stitched together 28 years worth of satellite imagery to allow anyone to create a timelapse animation of anywhere that you can link to or embed on a website or blog.
Just go to Google’s Earth Engine and type in a location.
Here’s an example of one showing the deforestation of the Amazon:
You can adjust the time so it’s much slower, as well as zooming in or out.
You can also find additional map-making demographic tools on my website under Neighborhood Maps.
As always, feedback is welcome.