The True Adventures of a High School Librarian

The True Adventures of a High School Librarian

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Collaborative Learning with Google Maps


My school district launched their 1:1 initiative, the Digital Passport Initiative (DPI), this year by providing all 3rd and 4th grade students with a MacBook Air.  Assisting teachers and students with how to seamlessly integrate these devices into the classroom setting is the focus of my position with the district this year.  

Now that students are not limited to when a computer lab is available we have launched into research, a must have yet often overlooked skill.  This starts with assisting students in locating reliable websites for gathering information.  In Alabama we are lucky that our legislators provide funding to a slew of databases for our students through the Alabama Virtual Library.  Starting the students off with a reliable website will give them a basis of comparison as they expand later in the year to finding reliable sources on their own.




This past week our 4th graders began their unit on Ecosystems.  We wanted this activity to be a collaborative one combining all the research from 120 fourth graders into one interactive location. It was decided that this activity seemed like a perfect fit for learning how to use Google Maps.  

To begin the unit, students were presented with a list of Ecosystems and the countries where these ecosystems are located and asked to commit to one as their individual research goal.    Next, students were introduced to the Alabama Virtual Library’s database, Britannica Elementary,  as the resource they were to use for this unit.  Using Britannica Elementary students were asked to find the following about their country’s ecosystem:

  • One interesting fact about the country where their ecosystem is located. Include a image/video.
  • A description of animal life found in their country's ecosystem. Include a image/video.
  • A description of the vegetation found in their country's ecosystem. Include a image/video.

Once students had located the basic facts about their country’s ecosystem we moved on to learning how to input that information on a collaborative Google Map.  One thing I love about working with the DPI students is that they are willing to jump right into a new technology with little or no apprehension.  I demonstrated how to add a pin to the map and that is all they needed.  Before long students had discovered how to change the color and shape of their pins to individualize their pins from those of their peers.  As students worked they were eager to share their discoveries with their teacher and other students.  

Now that the interactive map has been made, our 4th grade teachers have been using it as a point of reference as they continue to teach the Ecosystem unit.  The kids love this approach to the unit as their teacher references their pins and uses their pictures and videos to teach.   

There are many great tie in activities that can be pursued throughout the year using this Google map, including longitude and latitude, mathematics, social studies and so much more!

Because this was our first time using Google maps our lesson was quite simple. Here are a few links to much more involved lessons with Google maps:




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