Monday, August 15, 2011

Online Tools for History and Geography

History textbooks generally feature glossy, colorful maps that many students skim right over as they read. Although the information presented in maps is often critical for understanding historical events, kids can find maps difficult to engage with.

Tripline, on the other hand, makes maps so engaging that students will want to make a map for everything they read. Tripline is a new, free website that allows users to plot any route on a dynamic map of the world. At each stopping point plotted, mappers can add a description and upload pictures of the locale, using either their own photos or pictures taken from the internet. The presentation can be saved and shared as a slide show.

Educational implications for this fantastic tool are particularly exciting in the disciplines of language arts and history. Students can travel with Huckleberry Finn by plotting his journey along the Mississippi River, annotating his route with the events he experienced at each point and enhancing their understanding of the book by finding appropriate images for the places he visited. Tripline prompts students to connect themes and movements to their surrounding geography – it can bring the Silk Road, the exploits of Ghengis Khan, or the progression of the civil rights movement to life.

Google’s Lit Trips is similar to Tripline, but it offers access to Google Earth’s impressive maps and satellite images, allowing for the creation of even more detailed journey maps. Students have the option of viewing a scene from above or of switching to a street-level view, which allows them to “look around” the scene by panning 360 degrees; this exciting feature can make kids feel though they are actually visiting the location. As an added bonus, students can search for pre-existing maps about the books they’re currently reading that have been uploaded by other users. Viewing these maps improves students’ reading comprehension by allowing them to visualize the book’s setting and events. Taking a Lit Trip is a fantastic way to enrich a child’s literary experience! Both sites make it easy for students to delve deeper into history, literature, and the world around them, making reading a truly visceral experience.

Photo used under Creative Commons by Daniel Hennemand

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