Classroom Connection: Map Overlays

Oct 2, 2012 by     14 Comments    Posted under: Classroom

This post is a follow up to “Mapped Out

“What is this students are still using paper maps?”. This is the thought that was going through my head as I walked into this humanities class. The ICT coach side of my brain was set into action as I saw small groups of students huddled around photocopied maps of Asia. How could this be so?

On closer inspections I saw that this activity was a balance between high and low tech – a perfect blend of the old and the new. Students were trying to identify why the borders of the world were drawn up they way they were. They had to find out what affect physical geography, religion and politics had on the borders of countries.


Each small group was given a large map of Asia and a plastic overlay for the map. Then using Google Earth they needed to identify which physical features affected the borders of a country. The teacher had already found a Google Earth Layer which allowed students to select various physical geographic features to be displayed on the map. By comparing these features with the borders of the world, students were able to locate and identify which features might have influenced the location of a countries border.

This is where the big maps and plastic sheets came in – the students had to mark the feature/border on their map (on the plastic sheet in case they made an error). As they marked more and more features their maps started to take shape. Right before their eyes they were able to construct their own map where they were identifying why a countries borders were where they were.

Couldn’t this activity been done online? Yes it most defiantly could, but I feel the combination of digital maps and the actual creation of a physical map has enabled the students to create a deeper understanding of the concept that the teacher had introduced – how geographic features, religion and political factors have influenced the creation of the world’s borders. At the end of the day this conceptual understanding is what all teachers are aiming towards and at times a combination of strategies and technology can be the most appropriate means of achieving it.

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