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Digital Pedagogy: Temporospatial (Mapping, etc.)


Maps are not just for geography students, or history students, for that matter. A literature professor might map a novel like Mrs. Dalloway, which consists largely of characters walking across London, occasionally crossing paths; education students can map school districts; a biology course with an environmental justice component could map disparate pollution or toxic waste levels in an urban area; etc. Numerical data can be mapped in myriad ways that challenge students to reflect on the meaning of quantitative and spatial information. Glosses or annotations on maps can also encourage students to reflect upon the ways in which data visualization and quantitative or spatial ideas intersect with qualitative analysis.


Anyone can use Google maps. It won’t result in the most polished product, but the process of dropping pins and glossing a Google map may suit your pedagogical purposes without getting into the complex coding necessary to create a GIS (geographic information system) map. There are many, many open source tools out there that do the latter. I have not tried any of them since Google maps achieves my pedagogical goals with a minimum of tool-use instruction, but I include links to those I've heard mentioned most often if you'd like to move beyond Google Maps.


Skill Level and Tools


  • Google Maps
  • Prezi (for timelines). For an example of an assignment that uses Prezi to have students create timelines, see Bridget Draxler’s Persuasions Online essay, "Teaching Jane Austen in Bits and Bytes."


  • ArcGIS – “a geographic information system (GIS) for working with maps and geographic information” (WikiPedia).
  • Neatline – for maps and timelines. “Neatline allows scholars, students, and curators to tell stories with maps and timelines. As a suite of add-on tools for Omeka, it opens new possibilities for hand-crafted, interactive spatial and temporal interpretation.”
  • Google Fusion Tables – Turn a table with a ‘location’ column into an annotated and customizable map.
  • Timemapper – Another option for turning a spreadsheet into a map, timeline, or timemap.

A list of other mapping options:

  • QGis
  • Mapstory - new site in prototype stage. Crowd sourced editing of maps.

For timelines –

Sample Map Assignment

(*This is an adaptation of historian Amy Whipple’s assignment for London study-abroad students. Whipple asks students to map places, exhibits, performances, and/or events that relate to specific topics in the course reading and write a guide to explain those choices. Her objectives include to familiarize students with London geography and the city’s myriad cultural opportunities as well as to conduct focused, purposeful internet research and enrich understanding of the assigned reading.)



Literary setting is both time and place, so I want you to get a sense of the place and the time described in this novel as well as how the past informs the present. Develop a Google map that identifies places, spaces, and landmarks relevant to understanding a literary work or other objective. Write a gloss or annotation to create a “Now and Then” guide for each site on your map explaining your choices and connecting them to the novel. DUE DATE: TBD.



  • familiarize yourself with the historical and geographical contexts of the literary readings and enhance understanding by making connections between places, spaces, and themes
  • understand how the settings of the novels and their sociocultural functions have changed or remained the same over time
  • conduct focused, purposeful research, particularly using online sources
  • write succinctly and accurately for a public audience


Assignment Guidelines and Instructions: [These may change as Google Maps changes!]

  1. As you read the novel, research places relevant to it and add the appropriate locale to your map:
  • Your map should feature FIVE sites with relevance to the setting of the novel (time and place) as well as some cultural meaning in the present time.
  • You will need TWO map layers to accommodate two annotations for each site: one relevant to the historical setting of the novel and one that describes how that space functions today (see below).
  1. If you do not have a Gmail account, sign up for one.  (It’s free.)
  2. Go to Google maps in your account (or go directly to and choose “Create a new map”)
  • Choose “My Maps” from the pull down menu in the search box.
  • Choose “Create” (look for the pencil icon)
  1. Add a layer by clicking the “add layer” button—one layer should be your “THEN” annotations, one layer should be your “NOW” annotations.
  2. In the left panel, click the layer you want to use. The selected layer will be blue on the left edge.
  3. Search for the first place, address, or point of interest that you want to add. A new, non-permanent layer entitled “Search: your search term” will automatically appear in the left panel and your results will show as green pins on the map.
  4. To add that pin to your layers, click the result. Then click Add to map. You can also add a custom pin by clicking on the pin icon below the search box and then clicking over the space where you want to drop the pin.
  5. Save the map with this title: [YOUR LAST NAME] NOVEL TITLE MAP.
  6. As you add sites to your map, you should write a corresponding explanation or gloss for your site in the discursive space on Google Maps (i.e. drop a pin, name your site, and click on the pencil in the bottom right-hand corner to add text). You can also play around with color and icons for your pins as well as add web-based photo and video links by clicking the camera while in edit mode.

• Each of your 5 sites should have a gloss or guidebook entry for THEN and NOW. Since you can only create one gloss or annotation for each site on a map, you will need to create two layers for your map. The first layer will be your THEN annotations, the second layer your NOW annotations for the SAME sites.

• Each gloss should be about 150-200 words in length [There are character limits so stick to the word count! We will address technology issues together as a class.] Write and save your glosses on your computer so you can edit and draft, then cut and paste into your map when you have a polished version.

• Each entry should (a) briefly describe the site and (b) explain its significance and/or relationship to the literature, concentrating on how the information contributes to understanding the literature AND/OR culture. You might also want to address continuity or change over time.

• You can and should try to make your map as interesting as possible by adding images, video files, historical data, quotations from the literature, etc.

When quoting or paraphrasing material from a website (or guidebook, textual notes, existing web map, or anything else), you MUST provide a proper citation using MLA format! Cite parenthetically within your annotation. A full bibliography will also be turned in separately (see below).

  1. Write a 350-word (one paragraph, one page) reflection on what you learned from your mapping experience. Explain how the chosen features on your map contribute to understanding the literature. Include your bibliography of sources with the paragraph.
  2. When you complete the map and the glosses, please do the following:

• Share your map with me: you will need a Google account to make this easy.

• Submit your paragraph and bibliography to the assignment on our LMS.


Reflection paragraphs will be assessed in keeping with the course writing rubric.

Maps will be evaluated in terms of (These objectives are quite easily modified for different course outcomes, though all rubrics would likely include the need for accuracy and required map and/or annotation elements):

  1. The accuracy and originality of your chosen sites as well as their relevance to understanding the novel.
  2. Your inclusion of brief, specific references to the novel itself in your annotations.
  3. The quality of research you have conducted to find and describe your locations.
  4. Your creative use of visual, audio, and/or or video elements in the annotations.
  5. The clarity of the written text in annotations and in the paragraph.
  6. The critical and analytical thinking you exhibit in both choosing sites and annotating them as well as in reflecting on the process in your paragraph. Cutting and pasting a tourist website’s gloss into your annotation doesn’t reflect your understanding of how and why that site is important to the novel! Pointing out that a character walked somewhere without telling us how or why that walk is key is also insufficient. Instead, explain how the distinct qualities of a space or setting affect our understanding of specific events and actions in the novel or how it works thematically.
  7. Your understanding of and reflection upon how your chosen sites function(ed) both during the period in which the novel is set and now, in modern Britain.

Map Rubric:







5 sites chosen for each time period are exceptionally relevant to understanding the novel. Annotations are extremely well written and demonstrate original insight on the novel’s themes, characters, etc., make compelling connections between literary meaning and place, and cite the novel directly. Sophisticated understanding of the relationship between space/place and time demonstrated.

5 sites chosen for each time period are relevant to understanding the novel. Annotations are well written and demonstrate understanding of the novel’s themes, characters, etc., make relevant connections between literary meaning and place, and cite the novel directly. A sense of the relationship between space/place and time demonstrated.

5 sites chosen are pertinent to the novel. Annotations are understandable but may lack clear connections to the novel’s themes, characters, etc. Connections between literary meaning and place not always apparent. Citations from the novel are lacking. The relationship between space/place and time not clearly demonstrated.

Content is minimal, missing, and/or there are several factual errors. Missing or negligible connections to novel, including a lack of direct citation. Writing in annotations includes a distracting number of errors. Connections between space/place and time are not clear or are absent.

Use of Research

Reliable, accurate sources used. Source material is cited correctly and incorporated exceptionally well.

Reliable, accurate sources used. Source material is properly cited and used correctly.

Source material is contextualized and documented appropriately.

Research is not specific, wholly accurate, reliable, relevant, or sufficient and/or is incorrectly documented.

Visual Appeal

Makes excellent use of font, color, images, graphics, effects, videos, and/or sound to enhance presentation of map and annotations.

Makes good use of font, color, graphics, images, effects, etc. to enhance presentation of map and annotations.

Makes use of font, color, graphics, images, effects, etc. but occasionally these detract from the content.

Makes very little use of font, color, graphics, images, effects, etc. to increase visual appeal or choices distract from the content.


No misspellings or grammatical errors, broken links, missing images or other HTML errors. Locations are accurately pinned.

Very few misspellings mechanical errors, and/or missing links, images, etc. Locations are accurate.

Several spelling, grammatical, and/or HTML  errors. Locations are mostly accurate.

A distracting number of errors in spelling, grammar, and/or HTML. Locations may be inaccurate.