Creating interactive maps to explore community issues

Map of Springfield

For her spring 2018 class titled Latino/a Studies 350: Latinas/os/x and Housing, Assistant Professor Vanessa Rosa was looking for a way for her students to create online maps to analyze and share information about housing issues faced by the Latino/a community in western Massachusetts. Rosa and Library, Information & Technology Services (LITS) Liaison Jim Burke discussed different tools to allow the students to create maps to explore mortgage defaults in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. They decided to use an easy-to-use yet versatile mapping tool, Google My Maps, and taught the students in a hands-on workshop how to use it to map community data.


The students used municipal records to compile and enter data on foreclosed properties in Springfield and Holyoke from 2008 to 2016 into spreadsheets.  This detailed information was then imported into Google My Maps so that the geographical patterns and chronology of different aspects of the housing crisis in these communities could be easily visualized.


Because maps in Google My Maps can be shared and edited by the whole class or by work groups, students are able to work collaboratively on research projects that involve compiling and analyzing geographical data. The maps that students create can also be shared in an online and interactive format with people outside the class or embedded in web sites or blogs to share with the community.  And because the Google Maps tool is available to any user with a Google account, students leave the class with the skills to use a simple mapping tool even after they leave Mount Holyoke.


Interested in learning more about using Google My Maps or another mapping tool in your teaching?  Contact your LITS Liaison.