Google Maps

Google MapsI can remember three distinct occasions in my life where I have been blown away by technology. I will save the first two for another day, but I will say that the amazing experience of walking the streets of New York, from my computer on the other side of the world in Australia is definitely one of them. That feeling of disbelief where you wonder if it is another April 1st prank… What, they actually drove a little car all around the city taking photos??? But they did… And they continue to do so.

Google Maps started as a downloadable C++ program designed by two Danish brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen. Since being acquired by Google in 2004, the program turned web app, has seen massive innovation and is now a tool used in nearly ever industry imaginable. But for students who now take these amazing technological advances for granted, how can we put the fun into Google mapping? And how can we spark a lifelong interest in geography, travel and other cultures?

Here are six brilliant sites that use Google Maps to make fascinating, interesting, fun and thought provoking things happen.

Google Sightseeing

Google Sightseeing lets you see the sights of the world without leaving your chair. The website is a blog that is updated regularly with places you should  visit using Google Maps. Whether it is strange aerial shotsstreet art on Streetview, or spectacular photography (seen below) from around the world, the Sightseeing community will feature it.

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The Great Global Treasure Hunt

The Great Global Treasure Hunt is a clever concept, where users take a book of clues and Google Earth to participate in a treasure hunt around the world.

This global competition closes on March 31, 2012 at midnight GMT so you have until then to take part in the Great Global Treasure Hunt on Google Earth.



MapCrunch is a highly addictive way to explore Google Streetview as well as spark an interest in geography around the globe. The concept behind MapCrunch is to teleport you between random locations in 30 different countries. Using the images in Streetview, you can explore the area and get a feel for the landscape, people and culture. For a bit of fun, try switching off the location information and see if you or your class can guess where you are.


God’s Mouse

Not necessarily educational, God’s Mouse is a fun way to introduce Google Maps. The site essentially gives you a view of the world, with a giant mouse pointer – God’s Mouse. As you navigate around the earth, your mouse pointer will cast an enormous shadow wherever you point.



Historypin is a brilliant concept, and great way to blend geography with history. The premise behind Historypin is viewing photographs from through-out history using Google Maps. It is fascinating to move through cities you are familiar with and see just how they looked many years ago. Students can use the site to view how their own home looked in the past, as well as submitting any of their own photographs to add to the community. It is particularly magical to use Google Streetview to compare images from the past side by side with images of the present.


The Wilderness Downtown

The Wilderness Downtown is an amazingly impressive interactive film by Chris Milk. Created as a Chrome Experiment, the video uses data from Google maps to create a user customized video to Arcade Fire’s song “We Used To Wait”. The video not only shows how impressive Google Maps is as a tool, but also highlights the huge steps being made on the web with HTML5. Well worth a look, but for the best experience use Google Chrome browser.


Bonus – Streetview Zombie Apocalypse

Not as cultured as some of the other Maps applications, Streetview Zombie Apocalypse is still a very clever and innovative use of Google Maps. Using your keyboard and quick wits, your mission is to escape the zombie hoards invading your neighbourhood. I won’t give much more details, other than to give it a try.


What ways are you using Google Maps in the classroom? And which of the seven sites mentioned here do you like best?


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