Back in 2011, I was teaching a business English class with a focus on travel and tourism and I was wanting to have my students do a research project they could then share with their classmates. I had already done a few presentations in class and I was looking for something different. That was when I thought about using an interactive map. I looked around for a free online tool that allowed for more than simple place markers on the map. I came across ZeeMaps which allowed my students to create an interactive Google Map without needing to register. It also allowed text, photos, and videos to be added to each place marker. I assigned each student a place to research and present and they then had to present their map in class. Students really enjoyed the process and I have used interactive maps for different activities since then. To demonstrate how it works, I will use my original travel activity as an example, but I will also give a few other ideas at the end.
In summary, this is what happens:
- In pairs, students read over a short text on a specific area (e.g. hotel).
- With their partner, students then research more information about that place and the area around it.
- Students create a map and start adding markers to the map based on their research. These markers must include text, images, and videos along with possible weblinks and contact information.
- Students then share their maps with the class and present their place to the class using the map projected on a screen or in smaller groups.
What benefits do my students get from it?
- Focus is on reading, listening and speaking skills.
- Students must evaluate the material for relevancy and bias (e.g. reading reviews on TripAdvisor; listening to promotional material).
- I found students enjoyed presenting the material in a different manner. They felt it wasn’t as constrained as a slide presentation.
Here is an example:
- I found a booklet put out by The Guardian that discussed environmentally friendly travel options and it reviewed a number of places around the world. I took some of those places and I created cards I then distributed to the pairs. [Note: to create the cards, I used PowerPoint and then exported each slide as an image which I shared online with each group. You could also print them if that is easier, but I wanted to keep on the topic of going green. Click on the image below for a link to my PPT document if you would like to see more].
- I put the students into pairs and gave them their card to read over. They were given instructions to research the place and create an interactive map using ZeeMaps. Here are the instructions I gave them:
You will given a location and will be presenting it to the class together with your partner using an interactive map. You will need to add this information to your map:
- The place you are sharing.
- How someone would get to this location. Mark locations such as airports, bus stations, train stations, etc.
- Where someone could find food in this location. Mark things like highly rated restaurants, major grocery stores, etc.
- Some places that someone might visit while in the area. Mark things like visitor attractions, historic sites, etc.
- Anything else you might find interesting or something that might convince someone to visit the area.
You will be presenting this on the screen to the rest of the class. Please share the presentation equally with your partner and don’t just click on the markers and read them to us. Try selling it to us!
- I gave them instructions on how to create a map. Since then, I’ve added those instructions to a page that you can then share with your students.
- Once students have completed their maps, I have them present their maps to the class, allowing others to ask questions and then vote on the best place to visit (not the best presentation).
- I then give then feedback on their presentation based on an agreed upon criteria (this switches for different classes depending on what we have been covering).
- I’ve also used this with my class from newcomers to Canada (LINC) together with this Healthy Minds material. Students researched social support places within a local neighbourhood. Each pair of students was given a different local area and they needed to find social support places and mark them on a map. These maps were then shared with all of the students and they were invited to share it with others they knew who needed help.
- I’ve used this in classes to map out our Academic Reading Circles topics. It is especially helpful when the reading has a number of specific places mentioned in the reading that may not be understood from the text (especially helpful for the Visualizer).