Integrating GIS and Reading
Using technology mapping tools, librarians, teachers, and students can easily create interactive digital maps that relate spatially to books, stories, and other readings. It has become easy to integrate the concepts of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) as part of a reading activity. This strategy is multidisciplinary in its mix of reading with other subject areas such as geography, history, and science and it can be used to meet 21 st Century Standards integrating technology and reading. Using simple GIS technologies librarians, teachers and students can easily create and interact with digital maps that organize information from books, stories, and other readings.
Graphic organizers in the form of maps and globes can be used in contextualizing the instructional content while making accommodations for students’ learning needs and styles (Jonassen and Grabowski 1993). The use of graphics along with text reinforces learning, in part because visual information is stored differently from verbal information in a student's memory. Research shows that when students use geographic maps in addition to text, they recall more text information than they would if they studied the text alone (Vekiri 2002). One study found that maps enhanced learning from texts and assisted students in extracting and remembering information from the text being read (Schwartz et al. 1998).
Technology advances have broadened the ways that teachers can incorporate graphical displays to support students’ understanding. Maps need no longer be a passive activity in school; instead they may become constructive and interactive. Tools such as Google Maps support active participation and put students in control as they discover the relationship between place and their reading content.
Literature Mapping Activities
Google Books incorporated Jules Vern’s classic Around the World in 80 Days (see Figure 1). Students can see the links between literature and geography as they explore the route traveled and the places mentioned in the book. The Google-created map links page numbers and book locations to a graphic representation that allows users to click on selected map locations and to see a picture and a quote from the book. While Google Books is using advanced programming applications to automatically do this, the basic tools are freely available for anyone to use to create interactive maps.
Some other useful books for school use already mapped in Google Books include the 9/11 Commission Report , Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Hugh Murray’s The Travels of Marco Polo . The map making for the student is passive as Google Books resources created the clickable Google Map, as their software analyzing the text, and then creating map point links. But to a student this can still be an interactive activity as they explore the map of the locations mentioned in the books.
Google map in Google Books created from Around the World in Eighty Days.
Google isn’t alone in creating such map tools. Gutenkarte is another geographic browser, created to “explore the spatial component of classic works of literature.” Gutenkarte creates it maps by downloading public domain texts from the online library Project Gutenberg, and then uses an additional resource to extract and return geographic locations found within the text .
Map of locations produced from the content of J. Austin’s Pride and Prejudice.
Currently Gutenkarte has 18 book maps on its site including Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This site not only creates a map of the locations mentioned in the story, but also provides the full text of the novels, with locations highlighted and hyperlinked for cross-referencing.
Sample screen capture from Gutenkarte’s novel chapter display of J. Austin’s Pride an Prejudice.
Mapping and GIS Literature Trips
Students can take map interactions into another dimension (3-D), by using GIS book resources placed into Google Earth or other GIS software programs. Google Lit Trips is one such site. Here, Jerome Burg and Matthew Hart have integrated Google Earth with the English curriculum. This site currently has 20 downloadable literature trips. These trips provide a wide range of literature experiences, including classic literature such as Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Homer’s Odyssey, children’s literature such as McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings, adolescent literature including Bashares’ Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and even modern bestsellers like Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Users can download the GIS information in the form of a KMZ file, which will then open in Google Earth. Using Google Earth, students can follow the story locations of the book and click on map pins to discover more information, including pictures of actual locations from the story setting. The site also provides information and resources for those interested in creating their own literature trips using the Google Earth program.
Creating Maps with Students
The next level of interaction would be to have the students create their own maps from their reading, encouraging them to “construct content rather than just consuming it” (Milne 2006, 11.2). Students can read from their texts, then analyze the information to determine locations from the story setting. With that information they can create map points on a digital map, adding comments, images, and quotations. Using simple tools, such as those with Google Maps, students can place their virtual map pins on their own map. With these virtual map pins students can add quotes from the book, facts about the location, and can add multimedia elements by embedding links to pictures or videos to better “show” the setting location.
Some of the classroom literature mapping activities using these tools include:
- Story Map – Follow the storyline and plot by placing the virtual map pins on the map to show locations in the story.
- Effect Story Map – Identify places that have an impact on a story, even if the characters don’t go there.
- Comparison Map – Chart the student’s actual location in relation to the story’s location.
- Reading Map – Create a chart of the setting or location of stories read by an individual or by a class.
- Area Reading Map – Develop a collection or genre of books, then identify their story settings and place them on a map.
Making a Map with Google Maps
1. Start by logging in or registering with Google Maps.
2. Select the tab “My Maps” and then select the option to create a new map.
3. Move the map to the general location identified from the reading that you want to mark and zoom in using the screen tools.
4. Use the mouse pointer to select the Map Pin tool, then click on the map where you want the map pin to be located (it’s ok if it is a little off at first, you can move the pin anytime you wish (only the correct login can change the map). In addition to the map pin, it is possible to add a line or a shape.
5.As soon as the map pin is placed a pop-up box will appear for content to be added. Give the map pin a name and then add some content to the description box. This content could be a quote from the book or even a link to a picture or video online.
6. Once the description is set select the OK button. Now whenever the map point is selected the new content will be displayed.
Teen Book Map from the Florida Reading Association web site showing books identified by adolescents as high interest taking place within the state. Selecting each map point reveals addition information about the book
Once the teacher or students have created a map with Google Maps, that information can be exported and used in a more dynamic display using Google Earth. Moving the information from Maps to Earth is relatively simple: just select the KML option from the Map page, save it to a computer or storage drive, and then open the file with Google Earth.
Now students can do even more intensive exploring in a multimedia format by turning on layer elements such as Geographic Features and Featured Content from organizations such as National Geographic and the Discovery Networks. These layers will add additional content such as historical information and photographs of the location.
It is possible to take the level of interactivity even further, through collaborative projects. Technology to most students today is social, and social interaction is a part of their learning, and motivates them in their performance (Oblinger 2005). Using Web 2.0 tools such as EditGrid, which provides an online collaborative spreadsheet tool, students can collaborate online or in person to develop interactive maps. By first creating a spreadsheet with columns for the name, description, latitude, and longitude of a place the program will then plot the points on a map. Students can go online to see the map, then use the link to the spreadsheet to add their own information for the next point.
Collaborative online spreadsheet for adding story locations for the book Stormbreaker using EditGrid.
As a cooperative activity mapping literature projects can be used meet a number of the Standards for the 21 st Century (AASL, 2007) concerning collaboration to:
- broaden and deepen understanding (1.1.9)
- exchange ideas and develop new understandings (2.1.5)
- demonstrate teamwork (3.2.4)
- use social networking tools (4.1.7)
Figure 6 is an example of a story map that was created for a class reading Anthony Horowitz’s Stormbreaker as part of a literature circle. For each chapter, the readers attempt to identify the location of the story, if it is a real place. or If it is not a real place, then reader’s identify it’s approximate location from the description, and use online mapping tools or mapping software to find the longitude and latitude of the location.
Sample story map created from Anthony Horowitz’s Stormbreaker (Alex Rider 1)
Mapping, GIS and Meeting the Standards
Technology mapping tools combined with reading concepts can be used to meet a wide variety of standards in technology and literacy. The mapping of information from readings can meet a number of AASL 21 st Century standards, beyond relating to cooperative endeavors. By using existing mapping resources or creating their own, students can:
- apply background and contextual knowledge and applications (1.1.2, 3.3.4)
- use information in various formats for meaning and analysis (1.1.6, 1.2.3)
- use technology to create and organize information for use (2.1.2 2.1.4, 2.1.6, 3.1.4)
Librarians, teachers and students may also apply the internet and other communication tools as part of the literacy curriculum to comply with the International Reading Association’s position concerning technology and reading (IRA 2001). The use of these mapping tools can also be used to meet ISTE’s (2007) National Education Technology Standards for Students in the areas of Communication and Collaboration (2) and Research and Information Fluency (3).
The use of GIS tools applied to reading will assist the student in the performance of state curriculum standards. For example, relating these activities to Florida’s Language Arts standards, the use of GIS tools with literature can meet the standards of: implementing a variety of strategies to comprehend text (LA910.13), applying a research process for the collection process for collecting, processing and presenting (LA.3.6.2), and developing technology skills for using and understanding tools, materials and processes (LA.7.6.4) (FL DOE 2007).
Geographic Information Systems are relatively easy to integrate with reading activities and enhance the multidisciplinary aspects of reading. Integrating GIS technology as a strategy with reading activities can help excite students as individuals and as members of cooperative groups.
AASL (American Association of School Librarians). (2007). Standards for the 21 st-Century Learner. Retrieved April 28, 2008 from <http://www.ala.org/ala/aasl/aaslproftools/learningstandards/AASL_Learnin....
FL DOE (Florida Department of Education). (2007). Revised Florida Standards for Reading and Language Arts. Retrieved June 30, 2007 from <http://etc.usf.edu/flstandards/index.html>.
IRA (International Reading Association). (2001). Integrating Literacy and Technology in the Curriculum, IRA Position Statement. Retrieved July 1, 2007 from <http://www.reading.org/downloads/positions/ps1048_technology.pdf>.
ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education). (2007). National Educational Technology Standards for Students: The Next Generation. Retrieved July 1 2007 from <http://cnets.iste.org/students/NETS_S_standards-1-6.pdf >.
Jonassen, D. H. and Grabowski, B. L. (1993). Handbook of Individual Differences, Learning and Instruction. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Hillsdale, New Jersey.
Miline, A. J. (2006). “Designing Blended Learning Space to the Student Experience,” in Learning Spaces, Diana G. Oblinger, Editor. EDUCAUSE, Boulder, CO.
Oblinger, D. G. (2005). "Is It Age or IT: First Steps Toward Understanding the Net Generation," in Educating the Net Generation, Diana G. Oblinger and James L. Oblinger, eds. EDUCAUSE, Boulder, CO. Retrieved online June 20, 2007 from <http://www.educause.edu/LibraryDetailPage/666?ID=PUB7101>.
Schwartz,N. H., Ellsworth, L. S., Graham, L., and Knight, B. (1998). Accessing Prior Knowledge to Remember Text: A Comparison of Advance Organizers and Maps. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 23: 65–89.
Vekiri, I. (2002). What is the Value of Graphical Displays in Learning? Educational Psychology Review, 14(3), September 2002, 261-312. Retrieved June 15, 2007 from http://www.springerlink.com/content/3nj6egb1b2wl1vql/.
Dr. Terence Cavanuagh is an instructor of instructional technology in College of Education and Human Services at the University of North Florida. His areas include instructional technology, electronic books, assistive technology, ESOL education, and teacher education. He has been an educator for 25 years at the college and secondary level. He currently has three books in publication The Digital Reader: Using eBooks in K-12 Education, Literature Circles through Technology and Teach Science with Science Fiction Films: a guide for Teachers and Media Specialists, and is currently finishing a new book with Nancy Keene titled The Techsavvy Booktalker.