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I'm teaching a high school geography class and would like my students to make a map of their neighborhood (with relevant landmarks, roads, etc.). Rather than doing it on paper, I was hoping to have them create it electronically, but I can't find a free program that would allow them to create a map. Can anyone recommend a software program that would allow my students to create a map from scratch?

asked 07 Sep '11, 19:11

Fenster's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%


A couple of bits of more information would help. Are you looking for multiple students (or groups of students) to map the same area, or will you be splitting the area into slices and have one group do slice A, one B, and so on?

I don't know how familiar you are with OSM, but basically it's "one map" (or better, "one database") - when you're editing you're editing the one and only copy (hence the question about are your students mapping separate areas).

Finally - good luck, and have fun!

(07 Sep '11, 22:59) SomeoneElse ♦

I would recomend you have the students contribute to the OSM project instead of creating a map from scratch that would be disregarded after they hand it in. It would make the students learn about helping out the comunity and sharing. It would be fun for the students to see their assignments be used on a public map and downloadable to satnavs.

The most common editors in use with OSM is Potlatch, JOSM and Merkaartor. Potlatch is the easiest to learn and is aimed for beginers. It is possible to include Potlatch on your own web site however to be able to use it without OSM requires you to deploy your own version of the API witch may be dificult. It would be even harder to have seperate datasets for each student, however it is easy to see what a student have done.

JOSM and Merkaator are standalone applications that may be harder to use, but they have the ability to work offline as well and each student can hand in their own map in a .osm format.

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answered 07 Sep '11, 19:40

Gnonthgol's gravatar image

Gnonthgol ♦
accept rate: 16%


I'd disagree with "I would recomend you have the students contribute to the OSM project ...", preferring instead "Students could be encouraged to contribute to the OSM project ...".

The basic exercise would seem to me best constructed in a way that doesn't touch the main OSM database, handing in the map in a .osm format as suggested, although students (particularly the ones looking for "extra credit" who might be taking the exercise more seriously) could be told how to go the further mile and contribute any good quality data they produce to the project (avoiding duplicates!)

(14 Sep '11, 10:38) banoffee

I'd also review their final results to ensure incorrect information doesn't remain on the map once the students are complete. Naming a house as Jane Doe's house is correct for the student, but could cause problems with privacy as well as could be just too much information.
Satellite or aerial imagery is a very valuable tool for mapping as well, it can help the students understand how their map relates with where they live. Hopefully in your area you have higher resolution Bing or Yahoo! imagery.

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answered 08 Sep '11, 22:26

Sundance's gravatar image

accept rate: 3%

Will they be using windows?,a gps? or pacing out distances, a compass or crude angle measuring devices. They may have to sketch stuff in the field and take notes or photos. the paint program in windows with it's co-ordinates system will assist scaling. some aerial pictures will help a lot,can they get some from balloonists or local pilots

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answered 08 Sep '11, 13:12

andy%20mackey's gravatar image

andy mackey
accept rate: 4%

I believe our bing Ariel is for signed up mappers only others may know if the may use that

(08 Sep '11, 13:16) andy mackey

JOSM is well suited for this task and I personally find it much easier to use than Potlatch (from the very beginning, not after years of expirience). Quantum GIS seems very interesting and maybe even better than JOSM, but I have not tried it myself yet.
Not knowing how old/smart/computer literate your students are, but I would give them the freedom to choose any software they see fit.

I would not force any students to contribute their mapping efforts to OSM database, but giving it as an option is probably a good idea.

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answered 07 Sep '11, 22:10

LM_1's gravatar image

accept rate: 10%


It is interesting that none of those who downvote this answer (which is fine) did not give their own answer nor said what is wrong (which is not fine).

(08 Sep '11, 19:00) LM_1

It is absolutely fine. If you were required to say what was wrong, you would be prompted with an input field to do so. If you really want to know, I disagree moderately with your recommendation of JOSM; I disagree very strongly with your suggestion of Quantum GIS; and I think that your suggestion "I would give them the freedom to choose any software they see fit" shows you have no understanding of the practicalities of school ICT.

(08 Sep '11, 20:01) Richard ♦

Thank you for the reaction. It is not mandatory to say what is wrong, but I believe it is a good practice.
JOSM is the only offline mapping tool I have a positive experience with, Quantum GIS looks a bit less OSM-bound and more professional (only impression).
The recommendation of free choice of software comes from my assumption that this would be some sort of homework for the students to do on their own computers. My experience from schools is, that if teachers need a free program to be installed it is no problem, but it can be different in other schools.

(09 Sep '11, 13:38) LM_1

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question asked: 07 Sep '11, 19:11

question was seen: 6,627 times

last updated: 14 Sep '11, 10:38

NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum