Google Maps in the Second Language Classroom

After having listened to a class presentation on Google Maps, I reflected on how I would integrate the program into my ESL classroom. Whenever I conduct any classroom activity, it is essential that it allows for competency development. For this to happen, however, students need to have acquired the necessary vocabulary beforehand. While I feel like learning to give directions is interesting, I do not feel that merely telling students to map out a route offers enough opportunity for competency development. The writing production task should be the final task where students reinvest in their learning and demonstrate that they have understood; it should not go at the beginning of an activity.

Screenshot 2013-05-15 at 12.38.58 AM

Students always need to find meaning in what they learn; that it was motivates them intrinsically. If students have too much leeway, they get off task and lose interest. During the activity, there were several opportunities for digression, and it wasn’t really the kind of activity that would require students to “interact orally in English” (Competency 1). Ideally, pre-set discussion questions between the group members as they navigated through maps would be beneficial.

street view

The above picture shows what is possible with Google Street View. The program can offer us so much in the way of exploring the world. Students can take a virtual walk around the Colosseum and see the Roman Forum. They can visiting the things they learn about in their textbooks! I could use Maps by creating an LES on travel or on urban spaces; students would have to explore the world using Street View and remark differences in architecture. I could also assign a task where they would have to arrange to get from Montreal to a given destination (for example, an English speaking country) and then figure out how they would get from the airport to their hotel and to certain attractions in the most cost-effective way possible. The following video provides an example of how easily students could navigate through Paris and discover what it has to offer:

We mustn’t forget the advantages Google Earth can offer us as well, and it is accessible directly from Maps. I’ve found tones of really cool sounding ideas for using Maps and Earth in any classroom. For example, this Food Mapping project asked students to map out where their food came from, so as to understand the distance it had to travel before arriving on their plate. Or this website takes “Google Lit Trips,” which offers tours of locations mentioned in well-known novels. The literary geek in me finds this fascinating!

Here are some cool ideas for using Maps/Earth in the classroom:

http://digitalexplorer.com/2010/01/12/40-ideas-on-using-google-earth-and-maps-in-the-classroom/

http://thenextweb.com/google/2011/01/20/how-teachers-are-using-google-earth-in-the-classroom/

There are tones of possible unit themes that could utilize Google Maps; it’s just a matter of being creative, creating structured lessons, and ensuring competency development! I’m excited to start using it in my next classroom!

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