Review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2013
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Google Maps - Transit & Food

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Cool extras bolster top navigation app

Subjects & skills
  • Math
  • Social Studies

  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (15 Reviews)

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Pros: Fully developed maps have navigation capabilities and a few nice extras.

Cons: Wouldn't it be amazing if Google Maps were integrated with Google Earth?

Bottom Line: Google Maps is an essential navigation tool that can empower students to explore their world.

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 some guidance for teachers interested in using Google Maps.

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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.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Visuals are crisp, detailed, and colorful. Menus and icons are mostly well worded and placed. Helps users easily combine everyday navigation tasks with geography, Wikipedia info, and exploration.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Through map searches, destination goals, and free exploration, kids can learn how to navigate their world with confidence and forethought.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The Web-linked help is extensive, and the Google in Education website provides additional resources.

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Jeremy B. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Thomas M. Ryan Intermediate School
Richland, United States
Easy and free for locations and navigation
This is an easy to use tool that is free and accessible anywhere as long as there is an internet connection. I have removed every map in my classroom as they are not up to date, but Google Maps is always up to date. It is free, informative, interactive, and easy to use. Students enjoy it!
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