Online Resources to Teach Social Studies: Map Tools

By Monica Burns 04.27.2014 blog

An important part of teaching current events is helping students understand where an important moment took place. Not only will this help teens learn geography in the context of the news, but they will be able to make connections to what they already know. Understanding the relationship between a county and its climate, natural resources, and location to other nations is an essential part of having a comprehensive understanding of current events.

There are lots of high quality online resources that teachers can use to help teens understand how geography connects to the issues facing people around the world. With these tools students can see how close a particular city is to waterways or transportation routes. They’ll be able to compare and contrast the climate of different regions as they examine the geography of places featured in videos and new clips.

Google Earth

A fantastic tool for educators, Google Earth is a must-have in a Social Studies classroom. This free tool gives you a few different ways to explore the world. The desktop version presents teachers with the opportunity to type in different locations to zoom in to a particular area. If you’re working in a classroom with an interactive white board both teens and teachers can manipulate the globe by moving their hands to spin from one continent to another and zoom in for better detail. Google Earth can also be opened in a web browser. For students and teachers using mobile devices, Google Earth has both an iOS and Android app that can be accessed with tablets and smartphones.

The Weather Channel

Although most students are familiar with this online tool checking the temperature, the Weather Channel also has resources that connect to the Social Studies classroom. Using their website, iPad app, or Android app teachers can show off maps that demonstrate the current weather or access data on the climate of a region. It’s a good option for researching different parts of the world and viewing data in real time.

Channel One News

When covering stories from around the world, Channel One News has included maps in their articles and in their video. Not only will readers see a snapshot of a map that shows where a particular news story takes place, this Google Maps plugin lets teens interact with the part of the globe featured in the story.  Ecuador is on display in an article on oil in the Amazon. As students read about Rwanda, they can examine a map that highlights major cities in the region. If your students are studying China or Brazil, Channel One News provides teens with an introduction to both of these countries that includes a video and map.

Using maps in a social studies classroom is definitely not a new idea. Instead of a flat map hanging on a bulletin board, introduce these online tools and interactive maps to your students!

Have you found an online tool for teaching with maps? Share it in the comments below!

Monica Burns is an Education Consultant, EdTech Blogger, and Apple Distinguished Educator. Visit her site for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.

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