In the classroom, you can get creative in your use of Google Maps. It can enliven basic math problems -- for example, "If a car going 40 miles per hour starts here, at Main Street ..." The local business information could inspire a locally based social studies project, and, of course, field trip expeditions or geography-based scavenger hunts, using links to Wikipedia entries, can be fun. In any case, Google provides a guide for teachers using Google Maps.Continue reading Show less
Google Maps is essentially a navigation tool based on Google Earth with some very cool bells and whistles. Along with map layers like traffic, transit lines, Wikipedia, nearby services, and friend location, there's solid navigation for driving, walking, riding the bus, or bicycling. You also get well-highlighted alternate routes, optional text-based directions with voice guidance, street-level views with rotation, a peg man to drag around, and easy zoom controls.
An expandable side menu includes maps, navigation, nearby services, and more. The top menu includes a search box where you can type or say a location. The double-diamond compass rose returns orientation to north; tap My Location in the header to return to your current location. You can also view screenshots offline, and there's extensive Web-based help.
Certain features may interest high school students at the same time they raise privacy concerns. Check-in allows them to publish their locations, even at intersections -- "westbound," for example. The app mines Google+ info, including profile photos and contacts so they can select groups to check in with, and the default is public. With the Latitude layer selected, they can see all nearby, checked-in contacts.
In Settings, under Labs, they can find a list of experimental new features being tested, including one for blind and low-vision users, one that measures distances and elevation changes, and one that makes text larger.
Like most navigation tools, it sucks power, and you have to exit the app when you exit navigation. The main menu button is not always available, so moving around can get tricky. Still, this is an engaging way for kids to explore their communities.