Monday, September 23, 2013

Missing Google Maps Classic?

I love Google.  I use a Google water bottle each day. I have Google shirts. I present Google tools to teachers on a regular basis.  I am a Google Certified Teacher who loved every minute of the Google Teacher Academy I attended at Mountain View in December of 2012.  The other day my 5 year old daughter asked if I worked at “the Google”.  But Google made a change recently that makes me sad.

I teach social studies and have found Google Maps to be a powerful tool in helping students appreciate the geography of the world around them.  I have had students create custom Google Maps of the locations we study in American history.  It has been my experience that when students create a custom map they do significantly better on assessments later.  

Google Maps has some powerful features including the ability to collaborate and even share a map.  It is almost as if it were built to be used in a classroom environment.  One of the features I enjoyed the most in the past was the ability to add dynamic content to a location - a picture, more text, a link - even embed a video!  It was a great way for my students to add something meaningful to that pushpin.

My 8th grade American history students this year are creating their own progressive Google Map as we move through the school year.  Each unit the students will be adding locations significant to our current unit.  At the end of the year they will have their own custom map of the historically significant locations we studied.  It will be their map and will have a life beyond the end of the school year if they wish to add locations or even add places that they visit personally.

That being said, I have not welcomed the new version of Google Maps with open arms yet.  The ability to add as much dynamic content to locations is gone.  The layers are not as intuitive as they were in classic maps and my students had a little more difficulty finding their way around the user interface.  To me it seems as if the new Google Maps is a little prettier, a little more flashy but missing some of the functionality.

It still possible to “opt out” of the new version by selecting “classic maps” and then choosing to edit in “classic mode” but it is hidden pretty well and anything labeled “classic” doesn't usually have a long shelf life.  I hope that Google describes to incorporate some of my favorite features from the classic version and adds them to the new Google Map Engine Lite.  

Anyone else have any feelings on the new Google Maps?