When I was a child I loved maps.  I would pull out maps and spread them out on the floor and follow the lines, taking trips in my imagination.  As I began to drive, I always had the latest Rand McNally US road atlas in my car so I had the latest updates.  This made my parents happy because the never had to buy a road atlas – they just used my “out of date” maps that worked just fine for them.

Today mapping has come a long way.  My Rand McNally atlas is 11 years old.  Instead I use my computer or Android phone for all my mapping needs.  There are so many things I can do with these maps!

  • Get directions
  • See a location before I get there
  • Search for things nearby
  • Correct maps – A new Shopping center opened a couple miles from us with a Walmart and Lowes.  One road was moved and other roads added.  I entered these changes into Google Maps Mapmaker and everyone had them within a couple days.
  • Get GPS navigation and up-to-date traffic on my phone.

Oh, and there’s so much more that we take for granted!  Today, Google announced upgrades to their map service.  Along with the announcements is a bit of history of Google’s electronic map making journey.  Watching this gives you a sense of the work that went into the things that we take for granted with the touch of fingers.  It’s a bit long (51 minutes) but its in English (not techno-babble – they are speaking to journalists after all) so its well worth the watch when you have some time.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMBJ2Hu0NLw]

Mapping (or geospacial technology) has impacted our lives so many ways that we don’t realize.  Teaching map skills is not what it was even 5 years ago.  What tools are available to classroom educators to help teach the new mapping technology and how it impacts our lives?

A great project  that helps explain this was produced by Penn State Public Broacasting called Geospacial Revolution.  This 4 episode project that can be viewed online or ordered with teacher materials, quickly explains the uses and impact of mapping on our society today.  Here’s the 5 minute trailer:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdQjc30YPOk]