With his 1854 map of the London cholera epidemic, John Snow is often cited as one of the pioneers of using mapping and spatial thinking to understand and solve social problems. Maps and mapping applications have a broad range of classroom uses in the humanities and social sciences, and with the growth of the digital humanities there are a rapidly increasing number of freely available tools and resources.
Maps can enhance your curriculum in a variety of ways, from providing ways to visualize historical information (check out the Orbis project, Soweto ’76, and Mapping Revolutionary Boston for examples of the range of available resources) to offering students the chance to generate their own visualizations through projects.
Having students complete mapping projects can enhance their understanding of the material, particularly for visual and spatial thinkers. Potential projects range from mapping key events in a novel to historical and social trends or examining how geography and terrain affected historical outcomes.
If you are interested in using mapping projects in your courses, here are a few freely available online tools that can help you get started:
- National Geographic’s MapMaker Interactive
- History Pin
- Google Earth and Google Maps
- Esri’s ArcGIS Explorer Online
The Geospatial Revolution project at Penn State also offers many resources for educators: http://geospatialrevolution.psu.edu/