Jan 15 2008

Geotagging in School

Students gain a global perspective by creating digital photo maps.

Students gain a global perspective by creating digital photo maps.

Wouldn’t it be great to load up your students for a trip around the world? That might not be possible for most of us, but creating a customized virtual trip is. The destination is only the beginning — students learn about geography and technology in this lesson that crosses multiple disciplines.

Lesson description: Teachers will first decide upon a topic to explore, such as one of the following:

  • The Olympics — Identify past locations and discuss how countries share the honor of hosting the games.
  • Natural disasters — Track the places where tornadoes touched down and gather related images and data.
  • Trip planning — Choose a dream route and plan stops along the way.

Students must find or create digital photos (images from past Olympic ceremonies, for instance) to represent key points. Then the pictures are uploaded to a free Flickr account at flickr.com. At this point, they need to be geotagged with location information. One approach is to enter the longitude and latitude data, which can be acquired through Google Earth or a geographic positioning system receiver if the students can have someone physically take a reading for them. Trippermap, a free service at trippermap.com, will then pull all the photos together into a customized, interactive map.

Subject area: This lesson would be appropriate for middle- and high-school students if completed individually. Access to the Internet and basic technology skills are needed; a digital camera is beneficial. The free version of Google Earth should be installed. Expansion ideas include creating Web pages and virtual field trips. Elementary teachers could create a digital photo map for their classes and incorporate it into any subject area.

Standards: This lesson addresses the following areas of the National Educational Technology Standards for Students:

  • basic operation and concepts;
  • human issues — such as developing positive attitudes toward technology uses that support lifelong learning;
  • technology productivity and communication tools;
  • technology research tools.

Resources: Students will use search engines to find images and data. Students can access Google Earth at earth.google.com to find longitude and latitude coordinates. Image editing software, used along with a digital camera and/or GPS receiver, is optional.

Grading Rubric: Students are graded not only on their final map but also on the steps along the way. For example, their choice of pictures should match the lesson concept and the placement of the photos should demonstrate correct tagging. Ultimately, the students can present their maps to the class. Students can also collaborate and present in teams.

Teaching Tips

  • Allow plenty of time, over multiple days, for this project. Certain steps that require accounts to be activated might not happen instantly.
  • Familiarize yourself with the various formats for longitude and latitude notations. You will need them in decimal format, but they can be converted easily using online tools.
  • Make sure the photos you upload into Flickr are marked “public” — otherwise Trippermap will not find them.
  • Have a backup plan for presenting if the Internet is down. Be prepared with screen-shot videos of you clicking and zooming in on the locations on the map.