Today’s Apps: Maps and Navigation

I think about apps as belonging to one of two categories: 1) apps that have pre-packaged content that you can read or play with, and 2) apps that are designed to let you create, manipulate, capture or collect your own content. The world of maps and navigation apps contains both.

For simple consumption (look at a map of the world, take a map quiz, etc.) the number of map, geography and navigation apps is daunting. Here are a few examples:

HistoryMaps (Free) A collection of maps of historical sites and events.
National Geographic World Atlas ($1.99) As beautiful as you would expect it to be.
WorldMap (Free) A decent  map of the world but annoying in it’s determination to make you buy the pay version.
TapQuizMap (Free) A geography game: it tells you the state or country, you tap the map where it belongs.
There are plenty more kids/games types here:
http://bestappsforkids.com/2012/02/readers-choice-best-geography-apps-for-kids/

Of even greater interest to me, and to anyone who wants to create and work with place-based information, or locative data, are the apps that let you create new information. Place-based projects offer students some interesting approaches and dimensions to a variety of topics. For example, PLACE (Place-based Landscape Analysis and Community Education) Program provides local residents with a forum for exploring and understanding the natural and cultural history of their town landscape. You can build a place-based journey complete with informational markers as this class did for the novel Candide. Other examples of how mixing locative data and other online data to create compelling educational experiences can be found at the ARIS site.

Here are some apps that will help you get started:

  • MyMaps  ($1.99)  The closest thing to real Google Earth. You can add markers, lines, or shapes to any map using a variety of icons. In addition to the geolocation information the markers can be titled and include a description. In the description box you can use your iPad’s camera to take a photo. You can also add links to external web sites. The standard views are satellite and generic map but you can turn on a special Google overlay (provides 45 degreee angle view, and multiple Google layers like Businesses, Wikipedia, Roads, 32 Buildings, etc.  You can also pull in any KML/KMZ site from its URL to open in MyMaps. Save your map, then login to Google Earth or maps.google.com with the same google account and pull your map into Google Earth or Google Maps. You can also export your MyMap as a KML file. And as these are synced with maps.google you can get a URL to link them to your blog, websiet, or Blackboard or other LMS courses.
  • Google Earth  (Free): the “lite” version of the robust full-featured laptop program. This iPad version gives you access to a gallery of Earth tours but, more importantly, allows you to connect to your collection of public maps that you have created at maps.google.com.
  • KMLMapHD ($3.99)(see all kinds of data details about your KMZ/KML maps – haven’t plumbed the depths on this one quite yet)-$3.99
  • KMZ Loader (Free) It seems to open the KML file so you can see all the encoded data but I can’t get it to actually display the map.
  • iMaps+  ($1.99) This app is similar to the Map app that comes with your iPad but it adds a few features like bike routes, traffic lights, and bus route numbers.
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  • GPS Toolbox ($2.99) A basic GPS program, the tool box lets you measure in metric as well.  You can create location lists, map them out, and load them in to Google Earth or other GPS devices, find a location relative to another location, find what is located at a given GPS location, directly transfer your data from one device to another, etc.
  • Galileo (Free) Record, save, share your GPS track as you walk or drive it. It will draw your route as you go. It is possible to save the file as a KML file, which can be imported into Google Earth.
  • Field Notes – For use in the field, FieldNotes records your location (latitude/longitude) and let’s you add a name, note, and photos. The $10 upgrade adds the ability to record and attach audio and video files. One nice feature is the ability to refine your location manually. Tap and drag the location pin to exactly where it should be. You can export your notes as a proprietary file, KMZ, text and zip, or as a 1, 2, or 4 photos per page PDF file. They can be uploaded to email, iTunes, DropBox or FTP. (This app does not need wifi/data service to collect and save your notes but you will need it to upload them.)

A related app:

  • GPS Everywhere – A cute app designed for use when driving (well, for use by your passenger if you are driving). It will display speed, compass, average speed, long/lat/alt, time, map, temperature, weather conditions, humidity,and wind. (It doesn’t really belong in this category of “creating” apps but it’s a fun.)
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