This is the online version of a paper scheduled to be given at the January 2002 American Historical Association Meeting in San Francisco by Sara W. Tucker, Professor of History, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas, zztuck@washburn.edu. It will be presented in the H-Net Bill Cecil-Fronsman Memorial Panel on Teaching Innovation, in the Westin St. Francis California East Room, Sunday, January 6 in a session running 8:30 - 10:30 am.
Introduction

For a number of years now I have spent a large amount of my time teaching introductory sections of World History - a challenge that I enjoy greatly.  Over the past several years I've also started teaching online classes offered completely via the internet - another teaching challenge that I love. Not everyone envies me this rich teaching life - quite a few of my colleagues consider me crazy, first to want to teach the bottomless topic of world history and second, to add the great complication of learning to use online computer technology. Certainly there are days when I wonder if they don't have a point.  But usually I tell them that if computers are sometimes the problem, they are also often a part of the solution, and nowhere more so than in what they can do for all confirmed map enthusiasts such as myself.

I've been using maps as much as possible for my entire teaching career, now over twenty-five years. Since I teach every area and era of world history, I've almost never met a map that I didn't like - and want to acquire for one or another teaching situation.  I regularly use hundreds and hundreds of "filled out" maps both in the traditional classroom and in my online classes,  as well as increasingly putting them online in various study and teaching resources web-pages. I use blank outline maps for student exercises and tests, and as a base on which to make my own maps of many sorts. Next semester, when I will be on sabbatical, I plan to teach myself simple animation, so I can begin making my own "moving maps."

If I were stuck using the maps physically available in my department (a battered collection of old  hanging maps and slides) plus the transparency sets provided by text publishers and others, I'd be very unhappy indeed.  While in the past I have been grateful for each and every one of them, they are very limited in number and topic and usually try to combine so many different things that they are quite confusing to students. I do possess some reference CDs which contain some good maps, but can't easily show these through our classroom server-based projection system and may not, legally, use their images for online use.

Existing Online Map Sources

Of course, for traditional physical classroom use, the solution to my map needs is quite easy and relatively low-tech. There are a large number of good existing sources up on the web, from which one can easily capture digital copies of maps. These can then easily be printed out on overhead transparency film or inserted into PowerPoint  inclass presentations. This is in fact how I got started using digital maps, and they continue to be a great resource for anyone teaching only in traditional closed classrooms and with very limited computer resources or expertise.

So let me stop briefly here to say a few things about using such maps, before going on to talk about how and why I've come to want to go well beyond them. First, where to find online maps:

For teaching historians, the University of Texas's Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection is usually first on their bookmark or favorites list, closely followed by the CIA World Factbook site for those teaching recent history. The CIA website has the distinct advantage, as a government site, of its images being in the public domain, so fair use.  I often use HyperHistory's world and regional maps just because they are so basic and clear.  Houghton Mifflin's Education Place Outline Maps offers a limited but fairly useful collection of academic fair use outline blank maps useful for testing or building your own maps. Finally, Shock-ing Geography is a very nice site to tell students to visit. It uses Shockwave to let students learn and test themselves about a whole variety of physical and political geography locations.

More generally, I find needed maps using my current favorite search engine, Google, set on its "Images" function. When I put something like "Israel 1967 map" into the search box, it quickly brings up a good assortment of thumb-size map images. I click on the most likely, am taken to the page containing the full-size image, and am usually all set. As a bonus, this approach also takes me to a lot of very useful pages I wouldn't otherwise visit.

All such map and other images are then very easy to make usable in the traditional classroom. If I'm not in a classroom wired for computers, I just open a word processing page, import my chosen map images into it, resize them for maximum effect, and use an inkjet printer to print the resulting page out on transparency film. You do have to be careful to use transparency film specifically intended for inkjet printers; this kind has a slightly rough surface to which the ink sticks fairly well. If I want to draw on the resulting images, I'm also careful to put a smooth protective film layer over it, to keep the map ink from smearing. Often several images can be combined on one piece of film, and the whole file saved to pass on to colleagues or for future modification. It's even easier if your classroom is set up to project PowerPoint shows,

Why Go Beyond Existing On-line Digital Maps?

If capturing and showing existing maps in the low-tech classroom is so easy, why take the time and trouble to use more complex computer equipment and software to make other ones? For anyone wanting to put materials up on the web, the first -and  very compelling - reason is legal. My university has now adopted the policy that all online classes, even though password protected, may not include substantial pieces of anyone's intellectual property without clear permission to use it. That means I can't include, without permission or clear evidence that it is copyright-free, any images either copied from the web or scanned in from print sources. Intellectual property rights also mean that I shouldn't put up on the open web anything copyright protected, including those images found on other websites.

Of course I could just tell my online students "it's there on the page X map in your book. Be sure to find it," - and make sure to confine myself to map points that can be found, eventually, on text maps. But I don't want to do that in an online class any more than I want to say that to students in a traditional classroom.  If the text keeps mentioning Islamic intrusions into Sind, then I want to draw an arrow to it, or otherwise say "its right here."  If we are studying the spread of disease over Mongol roads, migration routes through Africa, or differences in Chinese empires, I don't want to just say "go look at the map and figure it out."

And so when I decided to start teaching online I knew I had to learn how to make my own maps. The happy results of this decision are a) much better maps to use in all areas of my teaching and b) graphics editing skills that I can also use both for teaching images in general, and in building better looking webpages.

In what ways are my own maps better? First, within the limits of my technological abilities, I get to create exactly the map I want, showing everything I want, with all distracting other information removed. And as long as I've taken nothing from any copyrighted source,  there is no limit where I can put such maps. This spills over to benefit my traditional classes, as inclass Powerpoint presentations can be put up on the web as a study resource.

Second, if I build it right, I can use each map in many different ways. I almost always start with a fairly simple blank outline foundation, which I print and hand out, as is, in my traditional classroom, for students to use either for review or in map quizzes. These outlines then also serve as the foundations on which I can either build filled-in teaching maps or on which I can insert numbers for online map quizzes. All can again be put, without limit, into either online courses or up on the open web.

So just what is involved, for an amateur such as myself, in making at least respectable-looking teaching maps?

Making Maps: The Technology of How To Do It

H-Net Teaching Resources Project: Maps & More

[ WU Home ] [ Directory ] [ A-Z Index ] [ Sitemap ] [ Contact WU ] [ Statements & Disclosures ] [ Accessibility ] [ Search ]
© 2014 Washburn University, 1700 SW College Ave, Topeka, Kansas 66621 (785) 670-1010
Contact webmaster@washburn.edu with questions or comments.