Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rethinking Global Education - Maps As Social Media

Source: Reddit, vlogbrothers
The two greatest breakthroughs in the past 100 years of cartography have been the handheld GPS and Google Earth. These two real-time, all-the-time navigation tools have brought geography into the hands of everyday users. They have made maps a daily habit.

In a recent (unscientific) classroom survey, 100 percent of our students said that they had never held a traditional paper foldout street map. Eighty percent, however, said that they had looked at a map on their phones that day.

Global education has a rich opportunity to tap into the dynamic proliferation of maps across the smart web. A perfect place to grab students' attentions is with the whirlwind video "42 Amazing Maps" by Hank Green of vlogbrothers. In this zippy clip, Green presents a startling array of images that suss out the quirky history of cartography. These visuals explore the nature of the world's population, the flattening of ocean navigation, the idiosyncrasies of global tastes, the data of land masses, and the actual size of global continents. Many thanks to Scott Cunningham (@hipjointnyc) for tipping us off to this entertaining classroom resource.

Source: Map Stack
A host of terrific tools exist online to make map study more than homework drudgery. Maps are now latching on to social media, with interactive sites that seek to be the Twitter or Pinterest of geography. For example, Map Stack by Stamen aims to be the Instagram for maps. It eliminates the technical requirements of cartography and instead allows users to choose layers and details to quickly share online.

Source: Map Box
MapBox also facilitates the creations of custom maps, with easy access to social portals like Foursquare and tablet apps like Evernote. It offers a buffet of options, from easy to advanced, for designers to craft images for both personal and commercial use.

Source: Maptia
Maptia, which reimagines geography as a social narrative, is probably our favorite. In conjuction with its terrific blog, Maptia encourages users to share photos and travelogs from their roams around the globe. By connecting personal stories, it hopes to quilt together the most comprehensive, personal world map ever envisioned. It's a great way to let students interact with the visual world.


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