I have been experimenting with different uses for Google Apps for Education (GAFE) in my Spanish classroom for the last few years. I really ramped this up last year. We are now officially a GAFE school and I am excited to fully integrate my work with my peer teachers and students.

Docs, Drive, Sheets and Sites have great potential in the language classroom. These apps allow language teachers to collaborate, iterate, evaluate and publish. (More on these later?) As transformative as these tools are, they keep students in the triangle of “class-cloud-collaborator,” in this case the teacher.

A tool that I have learned to love and leverage for learning is Google Maps. Yes Google Maps is handy to get you from here to there, but it can also help you take students to other areas and eras! Google Maps allows students to take steps out of the “class-cloud-collaborator” triangle, traveling virtually by creating interactive maps. These maps that showcase 21-century skills, strengthen language skills and learn important lessons about geography, history and culture.

Here is a project that I have adapted to different levels (2-4) and different tasks (Ruta Maya, Ruta del Café, Boston Olympic Bid 2024). I hope to explore numerous other routes as well: historical, political, literary, personal. Trade routes? Don Quijote’s Adventures? El Camino de Santiago? Famous voyages and explorations? Historical marches or movements? Routes that take people and products from point A to point B? A student’s personal or family journeys? A simple stroll around town?

Here is a step-by-step.

Step 1

Introduce the tool and share this tutorial.

Step 2

Establish the parameters: How broad a geographical and historical scope? How many stops? In what order or direction? How much detail? What sort of media, writing, images, graphs/charts, audio? I’m most interested in exploring their own voice recordings to target pronunciation and intonation next year.

Step 3

Give students time class and at home to research, write, edit and explore. I typically give students about a week on this project.

Step 4

Create and share the rubric. The rubric I have used evaluates four categories–language, geography, culture and technical–across a four-step scale: excellent, good, satisfactory and deficient. I also have a field for comments on the four categories and other language and skill areas.

Step 5 

Have students share and present their final map. The trick is that they have to make their map public and share the URL.

Here is a sample that I am particularly proud of…thank you Marina!

Sample Map Project

 Observations and conclusions

I have really been impressed with the work my students have done across levels in this framework. As I said, it’s adaptable to novice through advanced classes in language classes and the possibilities are limitless.

Aside from the language and content that I hoped to highlight, there were other discoveries. “Wow, South America is huge!” “Wow, the terrain here is really varied!” “Wow, these sites are amazing!”

Give this project a try and please report back with any tweaks or tricks to improve it.

¡Buen viaje virtual!