TEFL Lesson Ideas: Using maps & technology in class…more interesting than it sounds!

A lifetime of thoughts about maps! And how to use them in class from tefltecher legend, Ian James (@ij64) in the first of a series of guest blogs. Thanks very much Ian and welcome to SGI – nerds of a feather, nerd together.

Me and maps go back a long way. In fact, I think I’ve always had a map to hand wherever I might be. When on day trips with my family, to be on the safe side, I would pack a few blanket-size ordenance survey maps and diligently inform my father of anything important he might have inadvertently bypassed: “Dad! If I’m not mistaken, there’s an iron age fort in that field. Would you mind stopping so I can investigate further?”

Later on, as a student, apart from posters of Che Guevara and Dalí’s dripping clocks, I always made sure I reserved sufficient wall space for a map or two. Like most people, I eventually grew out of the cult of Che, and waking up to Dalí’s deliriums began to make me feel dizzy. However, to this very day, I’m still not over my cartographic cravings. Map Man! My current pin-up is a smallish relief map of Catalonia on a corkboard due south of where I am sitting writing this post (Latitude: 41.406943 | Longitude: 2.155488).

But of course, times have changed, and map lovers have never had it so good. Thanks to Google, we can now geo-position ourselves on Google Maps, jet-pack along the Grand Canyon with Google Earth or beam down to street level with Google Street View. There is indeed a “mapp” for almost anything!

But, what is it that makes maps so universally appealing (at least in my universe)? In my opinion, it’s simply because we enjoy mapping our lives onto maps. We can express our identity (“I’m from here”), talk about our experience (“I’ve been here”) and communicate our dreams and objectives (“I’d like to be there”). Maps are both spatial and temporal. They don’t just deal with north, south, east and west, they also encompass past, present and future, and are the perfect vehicle for personalised communication activities. Which brings me round to the main purpose of this post: suggest a few tools with which you can get your students mapping!

1. Create an animated “flightpath” of a journey with Tripline

Tripline allows you to create animated Indiana Jones-style “flightpaths” of journeys you’ve made (see example below). Sign up for an account, click on “Create a new map” and start adding content (text and uploaded images) to the different points on your journey. You can even add background music if you like. Animations have their own unique URLs and can also be embedded in a blog. If you’d like to see a step-by-step tutorial on how to create your first Tripline, click on the following links: Tripline Tutorial – Part One | Part Two

2.  Add voice recording to a map with Map Maker and Vocaroo

As you’ve seen, Tripline content is largely text based, which is ideal for writing tasks. If, however, you want your students to record themselves describing a place and then position the recording on a map, you might like to consider combining Vocaroo with Map Maker: you make your voice recording with Vocaroo (probably the simplest podcasting tool on the internet), then embed it into a Google Map using Map Maker. Here’s a quick example (click on the red marker to open the Vocaroo audio player).

So, here’s what to do! First, record yourself in Vocaroo and copy the embed code. Then, zoom down to your chosen location in Map Maker, give your map a name and paste the embed code into the “Popup content” field. Place a marker on your map by clicking on “Add marker” (if you make a mistake, select the edit icon on the right of the screen and drag the marker into a new position).

You are now ready to embed your “map + voice recording” into a blog: click on “Save map” and then on “Share your map” to get the embed code.

Unfortunately, Map Maker doesn’t allow you to embed recordings into Google Street View. If your students want to take visitors down to pedestrian level, suggest they embed a “Street View” of their location just below their Map Maker creation. Here’s the “Street View” of the location described in the Vocaroo recording above.


Ver mapa más grande

3. Record and share your impressions of different places with Woices

Woices is a community-based platform which allows users to create and share recorded descriptions (called “echoes”) placed at specific locations on a map. Here’s an example of an “echo” positioned at Lake Bohinj in Slovenia. “Echoes” can also be accompanied by text and photos.

Note: Although not animated like Tripline flightpaths, “echoes” can be grouped together into “walks” in order to illustrate the different places visited during a trip or holiday. Here’s an example: A Night Out in Gracia

And finally, here’s a few ideas for activities students can do with the tools above:

  • Descriptions of journeys, trips, excursions and holidays
  • Descriptions of specific places (a city, a village, a national park, a beach etc
  • A favourite view
  • A favourite building or landmark
  • Instructions on how to get somewhere
  • A description of your street
  • Recommending a holiday destination
  • Anecdotes of good or bad holiday experiences
  • Somewhere you’d like to visit
  • Walks down memory lane (e.g. the beach where I learnt to swim)
  • The location of a historical event
  • Somewhere you’d like to live in the future


This entry was posted in Creative Classroom, Lesson Ideas, Teaching with Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to TEFL Lesson Ideas: Using maps & technology in class…more interesting than it sounds!

  1. Pingback: Future links | Pearltrees

  2. Pingback: There’s a “mapp” for that! « tefltecher

  3. These are great ideas! Will definitely take a few of them into class! Thanks 🙂

  4. Peter says:

    Great! I’ve always had a map on the wall in my classroom. I put it there so I could show my students where I come from (Canada) and what an immene country this is. I have used it countless times since to illustrate many topics in their coursebooks. Most coursebooks these days speak of foreign place, about people’s passions and those are again linked to places. Anyway, just wanted to say that I enjoyed your post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.