Fun with GIS 209: Teaching with Story Maps Made by Others

Blog Post created by cfitzpatrick-esristaff Employee on Feb 12, 2017

Story maps ROCK! Ever since their initial appearance, they have driven huge attention. Everyone wants to see a story map about their special topic; some want to make one. Good story maps take time and expertise to construct, just like writing a meaningful letter, generating effective images, and building powerful maps. A good story map is all three at once.


story maps


One way to start being a good maker of story maps is to practice being a good consumer of creations by others. Just as riding around in a car helps us learn principles of driving, thoughtful viewing of other people's story maps helps us become effective creators. My colleague Joseph Kerski just wrote an excellent example of questions one might ask on a specific story map. But there are also questions that you and students can consider, no matter what the topic is. Here are my top five things to explore:


  1. FOCUS: After only a two-second view of the opening display, write your instantaneous one-sentence synopsis of what the story map documents. Then, after going thru it, write a two-sentence summary of (or take-away from) the story map. Do your before and after impressions match?

  2. POINT OF VIEW: After studying the story map, what can you tell about the creator's association with the content or topic? Is the story presented as "straightforward facts" (e.g. listing of local businesses) or is a particular perspective about the topic included?

  3. LOCATION: What location does the story concern? Where is it? How large an area is being addressed? Is the location central to the story (e.g. Rebirth of the Elwha River) or could the story be replicated easily in other places (e.g. Roadside Attractions in Minnesota)?

  4. GEOGRAPHY: What significant geographic patterns or relationships are on display in the story map? Are they presented to the viewer, or left to the viewer to discover?

  5. TECHNICAL: Describe any technical elements of the story map that you as an "editor looking over the shoulder of the creator" might want to point out as a possible issue. What items make you want to ask about how it was accomplished?


There are hundreds of powerful learning aids waiting for viewers to dive in and learn. A speedy scan can show lots of different content and techniques quickly, but a slower and more thoughtful examination helps viewers of all ages become better creators. Building a good story map requires having a good idea of the end product before even starting. Like any creative process, authors will make a lot of edits, but having a clear vision of what makes an effective story map will help make one's creations powerful.


Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager