Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More GIS

I've admittedly been away from my posting for too long, and the number of amazing resources out there continues to proliferate. I have a lot of catching up to do, so here's a start...

Let's talk about Geography Geography is not memorizing states and capitals or regurgitating the locations of countries around the world. Sure, that may be an important skill for some, but this discipline deserves more serious attention in PreK-12 schools.

Recently, I've had students working a lot with GIS, and this is an area I want to continue to explore, and here's why. Consider the image below. It shows the types of public and private industries that use GIS. Each link takes you to different stories/testimonials about how companies, government agencies, etc. use GIS. For example, "Retail" takes you to stories about how companies that range from Nike to Petsmart use GIS for their business.

ESRI's look at how industries use GIS.

As this site illustrates, just about any job students may be interested in is using GIS in some form. Granted, if we source this website, we will find that it is produced by ESRI, a major GIS software developer and clearninghouse. Their bias aside, GIS is still an important tool we should be exposing students to in our classrooms. But how?

Below are a few more resources to help GIS become a major focus in the classroom. Some sites are just cool tools, others are full-fledged curricula that let students use GIS as an invaluable research tool.

Where are People Moving?
An interesting GIS map Forbes Magazine compiled allows the user to see where people were moving to and from in 2008. For example, if you click on Jackson County, IL, you see arrows reaching the county from various other counties around the US. When you "mouse over" these other counties, a pop-up will reveal how many people moved to Jackson Co. from that county in Oregon and how many people in Jackson Co moved to Oregon. This is a great tool for teaching the theme of Movement with a contemporary lens.

Interactive Forbes Movement Map

To find free GIS maps similar to this one from Forbes, read this blog entry.

Tornadoes Everywhere Google Earth is another great tool where we're seeing a lot of universities and private interests use to create interactive maps. One example of a topic of relevance here in the Midwest is tornadoes. Recently, Joplin, MO was in the news as one of the deadliest tornadoes in recent history. If students want to explore this topic further, they can use the interactive map at Here, students can view where tornadoes touched down within the last 48 hours, on this day in history, or near a specified zip code. Clicking on the tornado icons that appear on the map allows the user to see the tornado's path, level of destruction, and fatalities.

Map from

If teachers are interested in keeping up with the other types of GIS-type tools are out there, they can check out this amazing blog:

Google Earth Blog

GIS for History
This site deserves its own entry, but I'll at least mention it here. At, students (and teachers) are provided with four full lessons: Slavery in America, The Great Migration, The First Census: America in 1790, and US Expansion. In each module or unit, students work with primary source documents and an interactive map to explore certain questions such as "
What factors made this migration possible?" (Great Migration Question). Scoring guides are provided in the teachers section. Click on the graphic below for more information on how to navigate these incredible maps.

Examples of map features from

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Builder Project at ATE

This week, I presented my Book Builder projects at the Association of Teacher Educators annual meeting in sunny Orlando, FL. As promised in my presentation, here are links to the books I have created with a 5th grade teacher to use in her classroom. Here's also a link to my Prezi I used for the presentation.

They Book Builder lessons are:
1. Washington Crossing the Delaware
2. Indian Removal Act (5th Grade Version)
3. Slavery in the U.S. Constitution
4. Indian Removal Act (7th Grade Version)
5. Body Ritual of the Nacirema - Notice that it only has text. The students' task for this reading was to illustrate the Nacirema for the "cover" of this book.