This is the online revised version of a paper given at the January 2002 American Historical Association Meeting in San Francisco by Sara W. Tucker, Professor of History, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas,
image: red triangleIntroduction

For a number of years now I have spent a large amount of my time teaching introductory sections of World History - a challenge that I enjoy greatly.  Over the past several years I've also started teaching online classes offered completely via the internet - another teaching challenge that I love. Not everyone envies me this rich teaching life - quite a few of my colleagues consider me crazy, first to want to teach the bottomless topic of world history and second, to add the great complication of learning to use online computer technology. Certainly there are days when I wonder if they don't have a point.  But usually I tell them that if computers are sometimes the problem, they are also often a part of the solution, and nowhere more so than in what they can do for confirmed map users such as myself.

I've been using maps as much as possible for my entire teaching career, which now spans twenty-eight years. Since I teach every area and era of world history, I almost never meet a map that I don't like - and want to acquire for one or another teaching situation.  I regularly use hundreds and hundreds of "filled out" maps both in the traditional classroom and in my online classes,  as well as increasingly putting them online in various study and teaching resources web-pages. I also use great varieties of blank outline maps for student exercises and tests, and increasingly as bases on which to make maps of my own.

If I were stuck using the maps physically available in my department (a battered collection of old  hanging maps and slides) plus the transparency sets provided by text publishers and others, I'd be much more limited than I want to be.  Traditional physical classroom maps are often hard for students to see, a pain to carry about, and tend to disappear when their use is shared within a department. All of the publishers' transparency maps, while appreciated, also have serious limits. They can't be used online without modification, plus all those that have come my way have been very limited in number and topic and usually have tried to combine too many different things, making them quite confusing to students. Reference CDs sometime offer a few good digital maps, even those often can't easily be used through a campus server system, or have copyright restrictions either against any modification or use on an open online course reference site.

So in this situation I've found it well worth my while to invest the time to build up my own map resources. Some strategies have proved very simple, and worth recommending to almost all colleagues. Others are more time- and resource-intensive, but well worth it for at least some instructors in circumstances similar to my own.

image: red triangleA Note on Copyright

Thanks to the 2002 TEACH act, instructors may make use of a reasonable amount of password protected materials not only within physical classrooms but also online, in password protected course sites. But it is still best to seek out unrestricted fairuse maps first, and always wise to include in file names information on whether an image is fairuse or not. That is because, as instructors grow more experienced and technology sometimes grows much easier to use, you never can be sure you won't someday be interested in going beyond closed classroom interaction with your students.  Maps made available for unrestricted academic fairuse (thus including the right to post on the open web and to modify at least within respectful limits) are endlessly flexible. In-class presentations built on fairuse materials can be posted on the open web for later student reference, without the need to search out and remove copyrighted materials. Outline maps traced from copyright-free maps are taint-free, whereas those traced or otherwise from copyrighted original sources at least should not be used on the open web.

For these reasons I recommend always first seeking out copyright-free materials. Those I save with a file name ending in "OK" (ex: "OttomanEmp1580ok.gif") to tell me the image is fairuse. Ones that I know aren't fairuse I save with an "X" at the end of the file name which also includes source information (ex: "AmericaCentralNowCNNx.gif") so that if necessary I know where to go to seek out use permission. Unfortunately there are not yet nearly enough fully copyright free maps, so I end up also taking copies of many limited-use maps. But it is always worth it to keep in mind the ideal, and keep on the lookout for the best sources of fairuse maps, and when possible also to make one's own contribution to the total such maps available to academic colleagues.

Having said that, to return to the world of here and now reality, it is also worth it to harvest all possible useful maps, whether copyright-free or not, and to make the broadest possible use of them right now. Someday things may be different, but for me it's worth it to use what's available now, to serve the students I'm charged with teaching, also right now.

World Wide Web Maps: Rich Source for Teaching Images

The first and usually easiest source of existing maps is the world wide web. There are already a large number of good existing online websites from which one can easily capture digital copies of maps. The easiest, least technologically difficult, way to use them is simply to print them out on overhead transparency film. The resulting image can be displayed using the overhead projectors which are standard in almost all traditional college classrooms. Assuming a computer-equipped classroom, it is also not much of a further technological step to insert such images in Power also for classroom projection. Online use of digital maps is yet one further technological step, but with enough technology support, may also be quite possible once one has a good enough collection of images.

Where and how to find online maps: For teaching historians, the University of Texas's Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection is usually a first entry on a Favorites (Explorer browser) of Bookmark (Navigator browser) list, since it contains a great many very detailed maps for just about all historic eras and areas.  The CIA World Factbook site is excellent for those teaching recent history and events, while the Ancient World Mapping Center Maps for Students site offers very useful maps on ancient Greece and Rome. All three sites have the distinct advantage of their images being copyright free. The CIA's are so because it is a goverment site; Perry-Castaneda's are so because they were scanned in from out-of-copyright images and then provided online with a statement clearly making them available for non-profit academic use. HyperHistory's world and regional maps are limited in both number and complexity, but are sometimes useful just because they are so basic and clear.  Unfortunately they are not copyright-free, so should be used only in the classroom and in protected online sites.

I have recently found an increasing, although still limited, number of useful sources for blank black-and-white outline maps. The National Geographic Society's Xpeditions site offers a dozen outline maps (the world, the continents, and a few others), each of which can be viewed in either .gif or .pdf format, with or without political boundaries, and with or without location names visible.  What is particularly nice is that all are available for unrestricted non-commerical use, either in the classroom or online. The Florida Geographic Alliance site's Resources section also offers blank outline maps freely available for use "in any lesson or classroom." Note that the maps all come only in .pdf format, which produces very nice printed maps, but ones that are somewhat more complex to try to alter with a graphics program. Graphic Maps Free Clip Art Outline Maps offers a pretty good selection of very simple black and white outline maps of the world, all continents and regions. Most are drawn with modern political boundaries but a few are without. All area available for almost unrestricted use, with a link back to the site. The site also offers some "name the country/territory/city" Map Tests, with answers provided but no online grading. Houghton Mifflin's Education Place Outline Maps also offers a much more technically limited but fairly useful collection of outline blank maps. The site says that they "may be printed and copied for personal or classroom use," and also gives a contact address to seek permission for other uses. Finally,'s Blank and Outline Maps page provides a broad variety of very well updated links other useful sites.

Several websites offer interaction of one sort or another.  Shock-ing Geography is a very nice site to send students to visit. It uses Shockwave to let students learn and test themselves about a whole variety of physical and political geography locations. The catch here is that many campus server systems (such as my own, so far) don't come equipped with Shockwave, making it impossible to use on-campus. Historical Atlas of the 20th Century  is another site worth recommending that students visit, or perhaps linking to in class. It is strongly interpretive, focusing on the Great Powers (including China). A number are interactive or animated; some can be harvested as either still or computer displayed classroom images.

While all of the above sites are among those I go to first, when looking for a map, my most basic tool for finding maps online remains the internet search engine. By preference, I use Google, usually set on its "Images" function. On that setting, when I put something like "Israel 1967 map" into the search box, it quickly brings up a good assortment of thumb-size map images. I click on the most likely, am taken to the page containing the full-size image, and am usually all set. As a bonus, this approach also takes me to a lot of generally very useful pages I wouldn't otherwise visit.

Showing the maps: All such map and other images are then very easy to make usable in the traditional classroom. If I'm not in a classroom wired for computers, I just open a word processing page, import my chosen map images into it, resize them for maximum effect, and use an inkjet printer to print the resulting page out on transparency film. You do have to be careful to use transparency film specifically intended for inkjet printers; this kind has a slightly rough surface to which the ink sticks fairly well. If I want to draw on the resulting images, I'm also careful to put a smooth protective film layer over it, to keep the map ink from smearing. Often several images can be combined on one sheet of film, and the whole file saved to pass on to colleagues or for future modification.

It's even easier if your classroom is set up to project PowerPoint shows. Map images can simply be imported onto a blank slide, and then if necessary resized, cropped, and even subjected to a limited about of contrast/brightness fine-tuning. Do note that often maps taken from the web lose a certain about of crispness and color density when projected, so more strongly colored, larger-scale maps are sometimes the best ones to seek out for PowerPoint use. On the other hand, if the original map is too large, it may have to be scaled back to fit on the slide, making location words hard to read. Basically you may just have to do a bit of experimenting to get a sense of what works best in your individual circumstances.

image: red triangleDigital Maps Step Two: Why Go Beyond Existing On-line Resources

This then brings me to second stage digital map work. Despite all the map resources out there, there often isn't just the right map, containing just what you want on it, or perhaps leaving off all those things you don't want on it. Perhaps your map is too small, too big, too pastel (so all detail is lost when projected), or too something else. Perhaps you've got a very good map, but it has copyright restrictions and you've decided you want one you can put up on the open web, or modify in some forbidden way. Perhaps you want to be able to make very specialized quiz maps for your online course.  In fact, I got started partly for both of those reasons. Once I'd made the leap into graphics editing, I discovered that a) it isn't all that hard to get started, b) it really did produce
a much better, more varied collection of maps to use in all areas of my teaching and c) the graphics editing skills I acquired are also useful both for creating teaching images in general (ex: lightening or crisping up faded photos) and in building better looking webpages.

In what ways are my own maps better? First, within the limits of my technological abilities, I get to create exactly the map I want, showing everything I want, with all distracting other information removed. And as long as I've taken nothing from any copyrighted source,  there is no limit to what I can do with such maps, including making them available on the open web, for all of my students to visit any time, as often as they want. Former students, now out teaching in some fairly remote areas, tell me they are particularly grateful for such open resource sites - and urge me to put up more maps, as soon as possible!

Second, if I build it right, I can use each map in many different ways. I almost always start with a fairly simple blank outline foundation, which I print and hand out, as is, in my traditional classroom, for students to use either for review or in map quizzes. These outlines then also serve as the foundations on which I can either build filled-in teaching maps or on which I can insert numbers for online map quizzes. All can again be put, without limit, into either online courses or up on the open web.

So just what is involved, for an amateur such as myself, in making at least respectable-looking teaching maps?

image: red triangleMaking Maps: The Technology of How To Do It