Teaching Geography With Google Maps

Travelers aren’t born, they’re raised.

Last week we talked about how to connect with your kids while you’re away traveling. There are plenty of ways to get them interested in this great big world of ours while you’re both at home too. One of the best and easiest ways to fire their imagination is with Google Maps.

Like many good ideas in our family, my seven-year-old son thought of it first. He’s recently gotten into Internet Radio, especially Tonik Radio out of Dublin. Tonik and most other stations show a Google map with pointers to where their listeners are. I find it kind of freaky that our house is clearly indicated on a map for all the other listeners to see. The kid just thinks it’s cool. He’s of a generation that has always known the Information Age and thus has a whole different attitude towards privacy.

So as he listens to House and Trance he surfs the globe, looking up where the other Tonik Radio listeners are–the cluster of fans in Dublin, the farmer in Israel, and the guy in the apartment block in Sterlitimak, Russia. Zooming in with the power of satellite photography, he can see what far-off countries look like from above. In some places he can even use Google Street View.

Once he gets bored hunting down his fellow radio fans, he starts exploring the Terra Incognita of the spaces between the points. This week he conducted a close-up survey across the Pacific and happened upon the Johnston Atoll, a lonely little former U.S. military base that I had never heard of.

I also show him places where I’ve been. He got an aerial view of the amusement park in Baghdad where I ate mazgouf. When the satellite took its photo, a small plane was flying over the riverside park and left its shadow on the water of the Tigris. A week later I came into my office and he’d found it again. He’s learning to navigate.

I can even show him my past, hovering with him above the Danish farm where I was an exchange student back in my teens. I brought him up the country lane to the nearest highway and its bus stop, the same route I rode with my bike when I wanted to go to Slagelse, the nearest town. The hedge and ditch where I hid my bike before I caught the bus are still there.

Strangely, this obsession with the computer hasn’t killed his interest in regular maps or his light-up globe. So if you have a young kid who’s curious about the world, try surfing Google Maps. It’s more than a bit Orwellian, but it’s a lot of fun.

Image courtesy Google Maps, copyright 2011.

European Union puts the thumbscrews on Google Street View maps

Google Street View
is probably one of the coolest mapping applications of the past decade (along with satellite images). I’ll regularly pull up a Street View map before I head to a destination I’ve never been to, and in most cases, the images make it much easier for me to navigate. I’ve even used it on my Google powered phone as a way to get an idea where I’m heading.

Sadly, the European Union isn’t as big a fan – their privacy laws are some of the strictest in the world, which is obviously great for privacy fans. but not so much for fans of Google Street View.

In a ruling last week, the EU has demanded that Google start deleting all uncensored Street View images after just 6 months (in Europe, Google has to blur all faces), and that Google has to start announcing in advance where their camera car will be filming.

The members of “The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party” want to see the announcements made on Google.com and in the local media.

Of course, these new measures may prove too problematic for Google, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Europeans find themselves without Street View images if the current plan doesn’t change.

Pompeii now on Google Street View

The ancient Roman city of Pompeii is the latest addition to Google Street View.

Available from Google’s UNESCO World Heritage list of street views, it’s the latest addition to a selection of famous sites that includes Stonehenge, Prague’s historic center, and the Roman/Medieval Spanish town of Segovia.

Pompeii was a Roman provincial town near the Gulf of Naples in Italy. It was buried by a massive eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Thick layers of volcanic ash kept the town in a remarkable state of preservation. Visitors (and now web surfers) can admire buildings, statues, wall paintings, graffiti, even furniture. The most eerie bits are the plaster casts of the eruption’s many victims. Their bodies rotted away and left holes in the hardened ash. Modern archaeologists filled these with plaster to create ghostly images of men, women, and children perishing from suffocation.

Pompeii and its neighboring town of Herculaneum give an unparalleled look into the daily life of the Roman Empire. The Italian government hopes that having Pompeii on the web it will encourage more visitors. While a walk through its virtual streets is a fun way to kill time at work, it’s nothing compared with doing it for real.

Angry British mob chases Google out of their town

Here in the US we are used to being able to zoom in on street level images of anything in our area.

Google started mapping up and down our streets years ago, and it all happened with so little fanfare, that nobody really got the chance to complain.

Things are different in the UK, where residents are beginning to complain quite vocally about the privacy invasion caused by the ability to get up close and personal with just about anything, anywhere.

In the town of Milton Keynes, residents noticed the camera equipped Google car snapping photos of their homes, and decided it wasn’t going to happen.

The angry mob stopped just short of bringing their own pitchforks, but managed to block the driver, and then chase him away.

Of course, the whole thing could have been done to prevent anyone in the town showing up on Google doing something stupid.

Google Streetview comes to Europe – the good and the bad

Here in the US, we are used to having Google offer street level images of our country. Their cars have been driving around every town and city for several years, and have snapped millions of pictures.

On March 18th, Google enabled imagery of The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Italy. Of course, not every city has been fully mapped, but the new images do mean you can do some street-level research of your vacation destination before you leave.

Just like when the US images were released, people are working hard to find the most hilarious things the Google camera was able to snap. But this time, the people at Google are working harder than ever to remove anything that is remotely offensive. Sometimes just minutes after something funny is found, the Google technicians have removed it.

Which is of course why most sites make a screenshot of the image before linking to it! After the jump some of the most hilarious things found through Europe.

A word of warning though – these images may not be suitable for viewing at work, or when you have kids around.

A British gentleman throwing up his night of booze and curry.

Yes – this is the Netherlands, which means it was only a matter of time till someone located the local red light district.

Fingers crossed this guy is single, or that his significant other never figures out how to use Google maps.

Public urination – ugh

Junior pyromaniac.

I really don’t want to know what this man has planned for the evening.

Another working girl in The Netherlands.