Friday, December 30, 2016

Maps and Timelines From Early America to the Revolution

With all of the map-making tools available, learners can present information through maps with a few selections, drags, and drops. It sounds exciting, right? I think so, too, but I'm not sure that's exactly what my high school social studies classes need.


Before designing an activity, I ask myself how much of the work will be done by the students and how much will be done by the teacher. This same question is useful for choosing tools to make and publish student work. I want my students to learn basics about computing and problem solving, so tools that do a lot of that for them are too "paint-by-number" for our class.

My choice for most activities is usually from the Google Apps Suite. For maps, we often use Slides because it acts like a blank canvas. A page setup can be changed to accommodate any printing or publishing needs, and my students learn technology skills that transfer to many applications. Drawing and My Maps are great choices, too.

Here's a couple of examples of map-making activities with Slides. Click on the images and linked text to explore the maps.

Columbian Exchange



Jamestown Timeline



Road to Revolution (click or touch image)


This is a PDF with links to Wikipedia made using Slides. Students were given ideas about what they could do to make this more than a digital version of a print activity. Some students did more by adding links. One of the practice assignments that put this timeline into action was a video tutorial. I did not include those student work examples in this post because students were not ready at the time of publishing, which was mostly my fault.  

What's Next?

Along with using these maps and timelines for video tutorials, we can also consider publishing something with a cleaner look for a website. If you are not familiar with Knight Lab at Northwestern University, check out the lab's StoryMap.

The Knight Lab site includes several tools that use Google Sheets to publish clean looking slide presentations and timelines, to name a couple, that are high enough quality for a respectable website. All of the timelines on the Gilder Lehrman site use Knight Lab tools.

At the end of the day, I don't want my students to experience the Crayola curriculum equivalent to 1:1 instruction. At the Digital History Farm, students will explore tools that require them to learn concepts they will see on many of the applications and websites used by businesses and institutions necessary for a successful society.