Digital Storytelling Tools: StoryMapJS

I recently led a Teaching with Technology workshop to introduce faculty to free, online digital storytelling tools that can enhance presentations with maps, timelines, and and narrative data content. You can download my PowerPoint presentation via Slideshare, which includes information about data visualization, images from the University of Victoria’s Digital Humanities Summer Institute that I attended this June, information about several tools for digital storytelling projects, and links to example projects. We focused on three tools–StoryMapJS, TimelineJS, and OdysseyJS–which I will introduce here in a series of three blog posts.

StoryMapJS is a product of Northwestern University’s Knight Lab–a joint initiative of the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications. The Knight Lab designs open-source tools with journalists and news organizations in mind, but all of their products have enormous potential value for professors and students working in many disciplines.

KPBS Public Broadcasting StoryMapJS Projects
Explore Christo And Jeanne-Claude’s Works Of Art

Many mapping tools exist, but most lack the ability to incorporate narrative elements in a visual and complementary way. StoryMapJS does just that, and to aesthetically pleasing ends! Users can plot points on a map and link those locations with a narrative trajectory, incorporating images, text, and video to tell the story. In just ten minutes, I worked with a fellow classmate in my DHSI course to create the beginnings of a StoryMap based on her dissertation research. Check out some great finished examples here. The platform is easy to use, with no coding knowledge required! Later I will show you OdysseyJS, which takes beginners to the next level and introduces some coding elements.

A slightly more advanced option for StoryMapJS is Gigapixel, which affords the ability to use high-resolution images and historical maps in place of the standard map. Just for fun, here’s a Gigapixel example charting Arya’s Journey on Game of Thrones, using a “historical” map of Westeros.

Games of Thrones: Arya's Journey StoryMap
Game of Thrones: Arya’s Journey StoryMap

Karen Gonzalez Rice envisions making StoryMaps to introduce her students in Art History to the different units of her courses, mapping a trajectory of the course over time and space, with representative images of corresponding artistic styles. Reference Librarian Ashley Hanson would like to use StoryMapJS to present the history of yoga and the ways it spread from its origin throughout the world. Any student projects that have narrative and geographical components could make use of StoryMapJS as an alternative to PowerPoint presentations.


Using Historypin to Engage Students with Place

historypinBecky Parmer, Archivist for Connecticut College, wrote the following post for our blog. Thank you, Becky!

Historypin is a user-generated online archive that enables users to engage with history through digital storytelling. By overlaying or “pinning” photographs, documents, video, and audio recordings on Google Maps, users from around the world help create digital narratives of places and the people and events connected to them (ex: Putting Art on the Map, Living with the Railroad). In areas where Google Street View is available, users can overlay historic images onto the contemporary view, and, using a slider, compare how an area has changed over time.

Launched in 2011 as a collaboration between the non-profit We Are What We Do and Google, Historypin’s nearly 2,000 institutions (including the Smithsonian, the US National Archives, the UK National Archives, and other libraries, museums, and archives around the world) and over 57,000 individual contributors have pinned more than 370,000 digital assets over the last three years.

At Connecticut College, the Lear Center has adopted Historypin as a way of mapping and sharing college history across space and time. An intern recently developed a virtual tour of the Connecticuthistorypin1 College Arboretum from its inception in 1931 to present day. With historic photographs, correspondence, maps, and documents sourced from Lear Center collections, “The Arboretum at Connecticut College, 1931 to 2014” traces Katharine Blunt’s plan to turn a few acres of windswept hill into the enduring reflection of the College’s commitment to environmental education, preservation, research, and conservancy we know today. Take a (virtual) tour of the Arboretum here.

As a way of engaging students with primary sources, as a forum for engagement and debate, and as a way of crowdsourcing knowledge and experience on a given time period, subject, or event, Historypin has serious classroom potential. For more information the Lear Center’s Historypin projects or questions about how to set up Historypin for your class, contact Becky Parmer or your Instructional Technology liaison.

Mapping Women’s Movements

Following up on our earlier post about Google Maps Engine Lite, Ariella Rotramel, Visiting Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, recently created a collaborative assignment using Google Maps in her Transnational Women’s Movements class last semester.mapwomen'smovements

The goal of the class project was to “help students explore a broader range of women’s movements beyond what we could cover in our course materials and help students gain first-hand experience with the complexities of researching and representing women’s movements…” Students were organized into groups based on region which enabled them to support each other and provide peer feedback on their map entries. Each student added 10 unique sites to the map. Each site included a brief synopsis of the site’s relevance, images or video, links to additional information, including news, academic or advocacy sources. After creating the map, students used their research as a starting point for a short paper, providing them with the opportunity to engage more deeply with topics that grew out of their map research.

Professor Rotramel worked closely with librarian Ashley Hanson and an instructional designer Laura Little in the design and implementation of this assignment, and they both visited the class to introduce elements of the assignment. Students were encouraged to contact them with research or technology-related questions during the course of the project.  Professor Rotramel hopes to further refine the assignment and work with future classes to develop the map.  Her long term aspiration is that the map can receive additions from people across the globe and become an open-access teaching tool.

Visit the Transnational Women’s Movements Map here. How might you use maps in your class? Post in the comments below, contact Professor Rotramel with questions about her assignment, or your Instructional Technology liaison with questions about using Google Maps Engine Lite in your class.


Mapping Fun with Google Maps Engine Lite

ATlas_of_Early_PrintingI like maps and I love exploring media rich interactive maps. In preparing this post, I spent far too much time exploring projects like Bomb Sight,  Mapping the Long Women’s Movement, the New York City Graffiti & Street Art Project, Travelogue, or Visualizing Emancipation. It seems like there is now a multi-layer interactive map for just about any subject.

Mashing up research and maps can be a great class activity that involves planning, research, evaluation, curation, visualization, and collaboration. However, most of us are not GIS experts, and even if you are, you may not need or want your students to become experts in GIS in order to accomplish your learning goals.

Enter Google Maps Engine Lite, a very simple entry point into the world of annoated maps. This tool allows you to create maps with up to three different layers; add points with text descriptions, URLs, images and other media; collaborate with a group; and share the map with a broader audience. Getting started is easy, and because all faculty and students at Connecticut College have Google accounts, there is no need to create any new accounts. Learn more about using Google Maps Engine Lite in this site that I created, or contact your Instructional Technology liaison.