Maps! Brought to you by Google

Example map from my digital project: Jackson, Mississippi


I have a love/hate relationship with Google My Maps at this point. Of course Google Maps has revolutionized the way humans navigate the world (for better or for worse) and the satellite imaging of pretty much every corner of the Earth, except for the poles, is remarkable. But when it comes to creating your own map using the preexisting Google maps, things get a little sticky. I decided a while ago to use Google My Maps for my digital project called “Mapping WIMS.” I’ll use the experience I’ve had working on my project as a basis for this practicum.

First and foremost, you’ll need to have a google account. After signing in, navigate to, which is just the regular Google Maps site. You’ll see directly under the Google maps title bar “My Maps”, on the right. Click on this, then click “Create New Maps”. First you’ll be promted to create a title for your map, add a description if you want and, more importantly, choose if you want this map to be public or  unlisted. Making a public map would be better  for doing some sort of project, where an unlisted map would be better for sharing specific directions with trusted parties.

OK, now we can start exploring  the primary functions of My Maps by Google:

Place Marks:

When you go about creating a map, of course you’ll want  to have points of interest. The place mark  tool can be used to identify those points and you can change the icon to a variety of generic symbols. If you  have a specific address that you want to put a place marker on, simply type the address into the search bar above and when Google Maps locates it, look to the sidebar on the left of the screen that shows the destination bubble “A” and click on “Save To…” on the bottom line of text. This way, you can choose a map to save this location to without having to manually locate it.

Along with the place marker icon, you can add a title and caption, which especially for a project map, is very useful. You can provide as much or as little information as you wo uld like. By clicking on the “rich text” option in the caption edit bubble, you can import pictures from URLs and hyperlinks. This makes the map much more interactive and illustrative.


You can choose three different types of ‘lines’ to use in your map. There is a straight line, a line that snaps  to roads, and then a ‘shape’ line, where you can sort of triangulate an area of interest.

The lines function, in my opinion, is actually quite disfunctional. Sometimes it is hard to get the line to begin drawing, or worse, to stop drawing. If you try to click away from drawing a line, your map will go flying in another direction and you could end up in Canada before finally having to abandon the effort altogether. Also, there is no function to simply draw a line between two place marks. You have to do it manually, and if the distance between the two is far enough, it is hard to be accurate. Often times, it is difficult to even start a line on a place  mark, because the program seemingly assume you’re trying to switch modes and modify the placemark instead of start the line. It can get really messy and extremly frustrating.

If you’re a casual My Maps user… thats about the long and the short of it. I haven’t had success embedding these maps, although that may simply be a testament to my internet tech skills. There is, although a quick and easy feature for getting your business on a Google Map….which I did with ease. Google even offers to send you a post card when the site is officially “on the map” as they say.

2 Replies to “Maps! Brought to you by Google”

  1. I watched the Google Maps tutorial video and enjoyed learning about the various options: adding videos, writing reviews, and inserting icons. It's a very engaging process for both the creators and viewers of the maps. As my wife and I are planning a cross-country road trip this summer, it’d be fun for us to create a map that includes pictures and videos of us at specific places, reviews of restaurants we eat at, and descriptions of our various adventures that we could send to our families and friends.

    From a pedagogical standpoint, I think Google Maps would be great for elementary, middle, and high school history classes. Students could go to various historical landmarks in their hometown (or throughout the country) and produce maps in which they add photos or videos documenting their visits and write short comments about their impressions. Such a project could easily tie in with Gowalla. The often elusive goal is to make learning fun and I think that Google Maps can and Gowalla can help with this by encouraging students to have personal interactions with historical places.

  2. I only had a bit of time to play on Google Maps before class. I had a lot of fun reliving my walk to and from class in St Andrews, Scotland. The street level view could be improved a bit and it would be nice if you were not confined to more major streets. Then again, some of the mapping seems to randomly go down alleys and by-pass a main street.

    I was very impressed by the tutorials I watched after our discussion on Wednesday. I think this is a great tool, maybe not by itself, but it can add so much to blogs and to historical websites. How rich you decide to make the map is up to you. A map like this would be great for a teaching lesson preparing school group for a field trip. It would also be great for a historical or landmark scavenger hunt.

    I had so much fun with this that I am thinking about using it in my digital project.

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