Using Story Maps in the literature classroom.
Story Maps: Space, Place, and the Digital Humanities
Introduction to the tool:
This lesson plan focuses on the multiple uses of the GIS platform Story Maps as a tool for digital storytelling in higher education. Story Maps has great potential for the humanities classroom in particular, as it allows students and instructors alike to create and curate digital maps with textual and visual depth. Instructors can create these interactive maps as learning tools, or ask students to create their own in lieu of a traditional essay.
Story Maps facilitates spatial thinking in relationship to textual and historical analysis.
As a professor of literature, I have used this digital tool to explore the intersection of geographic data and literary analysis in order to demonstrate to students the ways that fiction defines space and memory.
Example of Scholarly Projects:
My use of this platform was inspired by Todd Presner, David Shepard, and Yoh Kawano’s Hypercities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities (2014) – a work that outlines a process of layered, multimedia mapping called “thick-mapping.” These maps overlay geographic data and literary analysis, creating a “thickness” that renders new insights into the way that text defines space and memory.
I have used the platform to present my own research on the 500th anniversary of the Venice Ghetto to a wider public audience – including in the classroom setting.
Example of Classroom Assignment (college-level):
I have also experimented with a Story Maps assignment as part of creative pedagogical practice in a survey course of Asian Literature. Students who had no background knowledge of the geographical, cultural, or historical context of these difficult literary works were asked to create maps that demonstrated a combination of traditional close-reading of textual passages with overlays of videos, maps, hyperlinks, and images. Students noted that they developed a much greater understanding and appreciation of the books than they would have if they had only written a paper.
See below my assignment description and instructions as well as a reflection paper meant to generate conversation around the advantages and differences of using this platform. I invite you to utilize or modify these activities in your own classrooms, but to please cite me.
Students reacted (for the most part) positively to this activity, stressing that it allowed them to think about the texts differently.
“Doing [a Story Map] really lets you give a lot of detail and show more emotion … I got way more into this book by research than just writing about it.”
“Using Story Maps made me think about the text very differently. Instead of thinking what is long enough to put in a paper, I was thinking what is interesting for the Story Map.”
“I think it was a great way to communicate with an audience … It pushed me to think more in-depth about each of the texts.”
“I really enjoyed this platform, although it was tough at first to figure out. I thought every Story Map looked great! I like that while talking about the stories, you can include pictures and videos, unlike an essay. Pros would be the images, videos, and maps you can use and the cons would be just kind of difficult to navigate at first. It made me think more about not only the story we picked but everyone else’s as well and made me relate back to the stories.”
“Personally, I prefer essay writing because I enjoy writing more. However, this project forced me to challenge myself in a positive way by working with others and researching things to further my understanding of the story. I’m glad that I got to learn about a new platform to further my communication skills.”
Try it yourself!
I ask that each visitor identify on my map a place that they consider to be “home.” Follow the steps outlined by the handout (which will show you how to populate the map with artifacts that relate to this concept of “home.”) The result of this interaction will be a multimedia and cartographical record of each visitor’s experience. You can navigate through the ever-evolving project — explore your own entry and the contributions of others!
Click here to access and edit the Story Map.
Below, find instructions for the basics of navigating and creating your Story Map!
You can also visit the Story Maps website for detailed written and video tutorials, like this one!