Getting Started with Story Mapping
As part of my professional development plan, I recently had the chance to attend the ESRI GIS Conference for Federal Workers here in DC. I’ve always been interested in Graphical Information Systems (GIS)—I took several classes in undergrad and graduate school, but never had the chance to really use it in the classroom due to the expense and the equipment required to use older GIS software.
In the past few years, however, a variety of tools have been developed that are A) less expensive or free, and B) housed entirely online—eliminating the need for powerful computers. Google Earth, for example, was a pioneering tool that took students to the ends of the earth without leaving the classroom. Google has also developed Google Tour Builder and Google Virtual Tours—tools that teachers and students can use to create their own virtual tours and immersive VR experiences. For more about using those tools, check out this blog post.
About ESRI Story Maps
Something relativity new to me, however, were ESRI story maps. Story maps are immersive, engaging, and responsive websites and, despite the name, maps can be either a part of them… or not. Story maps are web apps and are built and stored in the cloud—eliminating the need for advanced computing power. Best of all, if you sign up for a free public account at ESRI, you can create story maps for free, and best of all, so can your students.
There are several story map templates to chose from, but the most common template is the Cascade template, which creates a smooth, scrolling web page. Other templates include: map tour, map journal, map series, short list, swipe, and basic. If you go to ESRI’s Story Map Gallery, you can explore thousands of examples and sort by template to see how each works and get inspired. You can also see several story maps devoted to telling better stories, inserting charts into story maps, and so much more. There are wonderful story maps in the gallery, including several from the Library of Congress, this amazing one about the world’s Space Ports, and this one from the Acoustic Atlas called “Sounds of the Wild West.”
Creating ESRI Story Maps
Story maps are created in the cloud, using an online tool. I found it to be fairly easy to learn the story mapping tool, and ESRI has lots of help in form of online tutorials and guides to help you and your students get started. The interface is fairly straightforward, and you don’t need any coding skills to create a beautiful story map. In addition, according to ESRI, a completely redesigned story map app tool is coming out in June, which promises to be even easier to use and will feature drag and drop tools to create your story maps.
And finally, because this is a post about story maps, here’s a story map that I made for my Albert Einstein Fellowship Mid-Year Presentation (UPDATED in May). As you can see, story maps can be embedded into an existing website and are also responsive—adjusting to fit many differently sized screens. For the best viewing experience, however, I recommend clicking here or on the icon in the lower right corner of the story map below to open it in a new tab in your browser. Enjoy!