Creating mapped stories is one of my favorite activities to help history students see the significance of location in historical events. Most of the time I have students include dated placemarks on the mapped stories that they build. Here are five free tools that students can use to create mapped stories.
The Google Earth Tour Builder allows students to create Google Earth tours in their web browsers. The Tour Builder uses a slide-like format for creating tours. Each slide or stop in the tour can have a date or range of dates attached to it. The tour places in the sequence that students build the stops in the tour. Have students create the stops in the tour chronologically to tell a timeline story. Learn how to use Google Earth Tour Builder in the video below.
MapStory is a free tool for creating mapped displays of data sets. Data sets that are time based, the travels of Genghis Khan for example, can be set to play out in a timeline style on your map. Creating a MapStory might look complicated at first glance, but it’s actually quite easy to create a map. To get started select a data set or sets that you want to display on your map. You can choose data sets from the MapStory gallery or upload your own. After choosing your data set(s) select a base map. After that you can customize the look of the data points on your map and or manually add more data points to your map. The notes option in MapStory lets you create individual events to add to your map and timeline. Lines and polygons can also be added to your projects through the notes feature in MapStory.
Odyssey.js is an open source map creation tool from CartoDB. Through Odyssey.js you can create mapped stories in three formats; slide, scroll, and torque. In all three formats viewers will see a location on a map along with the text and pictures of your story. The slide and scroll formats are fairly straight-forward, you click through slides or scroll through a story. The torque format allows you to connect elements of your map to a timeline. Odyssey.js does not require you to know how to code, but it might feel that way the first time that you open it. Read the documentation in the tutorials carefully and you should do well with Odyssey.js. I spent thirty minutes trying it this afternoon. My biggest tip from that experience is to remember that you are writing your story in the dialogue box rather than writing it on the map. The map is simply there to support your story.
StoryMap JS is a nice tool for creating mapped stories. On StoryMap JS you create slides that are matched to locations on your map. Each slide in your story can include images or videos along with text. As you scroll through your story there are simple transitions between each slide. StoryMap JS integrates with your Google Drive account. To get started with StoryMap JS you have to grant it access to your Google Drive account. StoryMap JS will create a folder in your Google Drive account where all of your storymap projects will be saved. With StoryMap JS connected to your Google Drive account you will be able to pull images from your Google Drive account to use in your StoryMap JS projects.
Heganoo is a tool that allows you to build multimedia placemarks on a map. Your completed map can be displayed in a variety of formats including a slide-by-slide format that allows viewers to see placemark information as slides while viewing the map in the background. Placemarks in your map can include pictures, videos, and text. Check out the sample American Revolution map embedded below.