When looking for a beach in a remote, street sign-free peninsula of Rhode Island, nothing beats Google Maps. Yet Google Maps can be used for much more than finding places. Google Maps (and its three-dimensional sibling, Google Earth) is configured specifically to allow users to post their own data to the maps, or to pull map data into their own programs.
Open software such as this has made it possible for a new category of software to emerge. Referred to as “mashups”, these simple tools combine data and functions from two or more programs to create a new tool. Such as a map of cicada emergence in a specific area, or a map of interconnecting histroical sites. For teaching purposes, you can take advantage of existing Google Map mashups to explore the geographic mapping of data, or you can work with tech-saavy students and have them create their own unique mashups. It all depends on the purpose of the class or the assignment.
ELI Seven Things: Google Earth
ELI Seven Things: Mapping Mashups
EXAMPLE: Map of U.S. Presidents
EXAMPLE: Cicada Emergence Map of Chicago