I follow many people on twitter: people in the field of educational technology, user design and more. And someone posted a link to a shared map in Google Spaces, asking people to add their location to the map. First of all, hooray for this medium allowing people over the world to quickly play with a new toy in a low-stake environment.
User generated maps are pretty interesting – if you were teaching an international class, either online or face to face, you could ask students to add their birthplace or last vacation to jump start a conversation, and get that community started. You could use it to track the incidents of mass deaths of birds, track the geographic location of oil spills, annotate the historical immigration of Europeans to North America or track epidemics at a local or international level.
Creating the map results in a visual representation of what may have been a series of abstract numbers, locations or dates. It can heighten awareness (increasing affective learning), develop technological skills (psychomotor) and create new connections between the data and how it’s represented or how we interpret it (cognitive).
On a personal note, as an avid reader of novels, I geek out when a novel has a map in it. I enjoy plotting the quest, or noting the geographic locations of rival factions (Lord of the Rings and it’s map of Middle Earth is probably the most well-known example). I’ve also searched out (and contributed to) a google map of Harry Bosch’s Los Angeles (Harry Bosch is the detective in a series written by Micheal Connelly and a map of the Central Valley Greenway bike route in Vancouver.
There is also Google maps available for map-making, and I’m sure others that I have not explored. There must also be ways of automatically feeding GPS data in to maps as well? Many more opportunities out there.