After one quarter of various social media-based tasks that stress various historical skills I’ve decided that my task of breaking down and discussing the way to tackle critical questions was not paying dividends, so it was time to scrap it. Instead, (and I’ve since garnered empirical evidence to prove this), the students could benefit from more geographic exposure and experience working with maps, which will help them more fully consider geography in the course of their thinking about various historical developments and how those are attached to the landscape.
So, my new task in the group rotation is to make a Google Earth-based geographical tour of at least ten significant locations in the chapter. At each location, which should be designated with an arrow, pin, or polygon, students will explain why that particular location is important in terms of its connection to the chapter. In the course of this explanation they’ll discuss key individuals, events, climatic features, etc. that make the geography of that location, or the location itself, particularly noteworthy. In essence, I see this task as yet another way for students to synthesize information in new, and hopefully meaningful ways — in this case merging geographic information with more traditional ID term type information drawn from the text.
I’m planning to illustrate this feature tomorrow and do some brief explanations about how to use the software. While fairly intuitive, Google Earth does have some quirky features, such as knowing to just click for the points of your polygon rather than holding down the cursor, which leaves a heinous trail of dots that are impossible to clean up into any semblance of order. I still have lots to learn myself about using the program effectively, and I’m interested in the potential for the recorded tours, but in the meantime, I think the placemarks feature will serve our purposes well and will get students more exposure to the geography that is so essential to fully grasping the subject matter.
As a way to demonstrate I created a brief Google Earth based tour of the educational institutions I’ve attended and/or otherwise been associated. Feel free to go on the tour yourself. The file is the first link here.
As for using the software, I found the tutorial PDFs at Google Lit Trips to be extremely clear and helpful. Additionally, this brief explanation guide about how to make Google Earth tour also seems good (though it may push the bounds of good taste in terms of clip art use. On second thought, is there any occasion where “clip are use” and “good taste” should be merged in the same sentence or otherwise considered compatible? Probably not.)