Saturday, August 1, 2009

Google Maps Excitement: Street View & "Road View"

A lot of you (yes, I'm already dreaming of hordes) probably know this one, but I found an exciting new (to me) use of Google Maps. It's amazing how far Google Maps Street View has progressed during the past year. Of course not everyone is pleased with Street View, but I've found it fascinating. With mixed feelings of joy, wonder, nostalgia, gentle melancholy, and disgust (for example when seeing my childhood neighborhood razed and "resurrected" as a commercialized surburban wasteland), I've visited past haunts, gazed and remembered antics at former schools, walked Trumpington and Trinity Streets in Cambridge, checked out my neighbors' property values, etc., etc. Mostly I've been focusing on street views, that is, on a micro level.

The other day , though, my trackballing hand slipped while dragging the little orange man ("Mr. Street View"??) across a broader swath of my home state and accidentally plunked him down in some vast deserted stretch of West Texas. Voila! A small "road view" picture of that precise location appeared on the Google Map. When I let go of the clicker the whole picture zoomed out, ready and willing to let me reclick and get a 360-degree rotational view. Mr. S begged me to take him to some place less Godforsaken (sorry, West Texas compatriots), and I complied. As we toodled across the state, new pictures kept popping up, inviting us to stop and stare and rotate. We had fun.

As I realized I could plop Mr. S anywhere that showed up in blue, classroom implications fired my imagination. Now I had the power, the force, if you will, to survey the geographical terrain all across the state, nation, world, uni-. . .well, I guess we'll have to wait for Sidereal View, but who knows, maybe someday.

I very much want my students to be able to visualize people, places, and things we are studying and will find Google Maps Street View invaluable in this regard. It will, for example, offer an alternative to the following, which my students did last year.

Regions of Texas with Pictures

Perhaps you and your students will find this useful in studying your own geographical areas of interest. Please let us know what you discover and if you have further ideas on how we might use Google Maps to educate ourselves and our students.

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