I was reminded earlier this week about Open StreetMap.
This is a wiki-style project that aims to create free geographic data for everyone to use. I took a look at the area around my school and was delighted to discover that the coverage is very patchy, raising the prospects of a nice school project based on my favourite maxim, Chris Durbin’s ‘Real Geography, Real Outcomes’
To get going requires a little more than a GPS and a web browser. The Open StreetMap wiki provides a very good Beginners Guide. Start by creating an account and locating your home area. You then go out and collect data with a GPS. This as straightforward as walking, cycling or driving around an area while recording a tracklog. The next stage is to extract data from your GPS, save it as a GPX file, (I use Easy GPS for this) and upload it to the OSM server. Don’t forget that GPS Visualizer offers a range of options for viewing your GPX data in the classroom.
The next stage is to edit the GPX file to create OSM data. There are a few options for this, the simplest by far is to use the online Flash editor provided, that allows you to edit map data in your web browser. Finally the map is rendered and changes can be seen in OSM, (although this doesn’t happen immediately.)
I started contributing data for my local area this morning.
When I’ve done a little more experimenting, I think that this could be a really excellent way of teaching mapping to quite young students.