Geography for Social Studies Educators

When I began teaching at Cleveland State in 2011, my geography students asked me to show them how to use Google Earth (GE). Although I did not have extensive pedagogical experience with the program, I agreed that students studying to become Social Studies teachers should learn to use the application. It is a useful pedagogical tool in the range of disciplines included under the rubric of Social Studies (history, political science, geography, economics, sociology, etc).

After a Google Apps for Educators workshop led by Ed Tech Pirate Dan McDowell and an ArcGIS I course in the Levin College of Urban Affairs I set my sights on creating a digital companion to the HIS 200: Introduction to Geography course at CSU. In 2013, this idea blossomed into the Google Earth Virtual Workbook.

Not surprisingly, I discovered a few things while drafting the workbook.

1) GE has an amazing array of layers and data which can be used in Social Studies and many other disciplines. I am leading a workshop for CSU faculty “Google Mapping Tools in the Classroom” in March to explore this potential with my colleagues.

2) GE layers are constantly being updated, replaced, taken down, and moved. In order to keep up with the pace of change in this GIS application, I needed to have a flexible format for the companion exercises for the course- the answer right now is a Google site.

3) Proofreaders are key. My students come to the course with a range of technical knowledge. Some have never used online mapping tools, even for directions, and some have programming skills that far surpass my own. The main goal of the GE Virtual Workbook is to teach basic skills for using GE.  To this end, I also have my graduate assistants proofread all units to make sure that I have not assumed knowledge or skipped steps in the writing process.

Due to the nature of changing technology and data layers, the GE Virtual Workbook will always be a work in progress. I firmly believe that it enhances the geography class and, most importantly, the future pedagogy of my students.

2019 Update: 

Thanks to a Michael Schwartz Library Textbook Affordability grant the Google Earth workbook has migrated and become the Geography Virtual Workbook for HIS 200: Introduction to Geography at CSU. See the new Pressbooks version: Thank you to all the library staff who made this possible!

2020 Update:

After much revision and a transition to emergency remote learning, I have significantly revised the Google Earth Workbook. In fact, due to the widespread of availability of various GIS and mapping tools I renamed the workbook to Geography for Social Studies Educators. Visit the book for all the updates and both face to face and remote learning modules.