Technology has put map making within reach of the average technology-savvy educator or hobbyist. Even before it was easy, intrepid hobbyist mapmakers and historians have been populating the Internet with wonderful story-telling maps.
Wikipedia has changed web-based information sharing forever. Imagine if 500 amateur mapmakers in the United States each created a different map related to U.S. History and shared it freely. Guess what? They already have. And, so have people around the world. GHWAT will help mapmakers convert existing and create new freely-shared map content.
Map info yearns to roam free. It's true! Rigid data formats, older graphics formats, pay walls, and subscription fees, all conspire to keep maps pinned down. Maps are flexible and love to have information added or removed to meet readers' needs. Many maps are yogis before being laminated. Also true.
Luckily, technology has come to the rescue here, too. The combination of HTML5, which makes it easy to render different layers of information on any old web page (meaning your iPad!); the emergence of de facto GIS standards, like shapefile; and the innovation of open source mapping software make these combinations easier than anyone could imagine five years ago.
Teachers are busy. Let's face it. They're underpaid and overworked. The ones who need extra information tools the most are often the least able to afford them. What should be "simple" web searches can take forever. GWHAT will provide a central location for searching for map-based historic content.
Let's give them a hand. Tying content to federal, state, and local learning objectives only requires adding a few data fields for each module (teachers are thinking, "Hey, that sounds easy!" & techies are groaning right now). GWHAT will provide learning objective-based search forms.
Let's help them help each other. If a teacher in Italy makes a great module about the Roman Empire, shouldn't a teacher in Iowa be able to give kudos for that? And maybe add something to it? Publishing and rating content are core to the GWHAT vision. GWHAT will help teachers find quality content faster.
There's more to education than just making existing content easy to find and interoperable.
Educational content needs to support the instructional objectives of any particular lesson plan. It should be tailored to the needs of each particular grade level and provide opportunities for synthesis and exploration at those levels. GWHAT content will be structured to support answering questions and the learning goals set forth in modern learning objectives.
GWHAT content creation guidelines and best practice examples will help guide teachers and students in the creation of their own educational maps.