Online Map Reading

Kill two birds with one stone in a non-profit adult tutoring program by promoting your program & teaching real life geography skills at the same time!  At a previous employer, we hired a student to distribute flyers around the neighborhoods where we held free tutoring.  Pretty quickly, we realized that the student was not able to read a map on her own to figure out how to get to the neighborhood by bus & to find key places to distribute promotional material.

Google Maps

A volunteer tutor offered to help the student by going online and looking at maps.  They used a combination of Google Maps (http://maps.google.com) and our local transit authority (http://www.riderta.com) to create a plan for which buses to take to the neighborhood and then look up local libraries, grocery stores & other places to hang up flyers or drop off stacks of postcards.  They also printed out a map of the neighborhood marking the key locations and surrounding streets to hang doorhangers.  They printed out the map so the student could check off where she had gone and find new places for the next visit to the neighborhood.

The student/tutor pair never got to the point where the student was able to completely map out the route on her own online.  Part of the difficulty was that at a second grade reading level, she was not completely able to comprehend and navigate the internet sites they used.  However, she was extremely reliable, trustworthy and charismatic and the maps allowed her not only to efficiently distribute print materials, but also be a verbal advocate for the program and encourage many more prospective students by word of mouth.  Her skills turned out to be a critical part of the success of that promotional campaign.

Metro Route 48 Strip Map
“Metro Route 48 Strip Map” by Flickr user Oran Virinyincy

The experience drove home my belief that every person has skills and gifts that are needed in the community, and also everyone needs some assistance to be able to use their gifts.  My talent is creating things like readable print materials, but I can’t speak with the experience, courage & authenticity about the program as the student could.   Thanks to her talents, the investment of printing the materials and paying for her time turned out to bring in even more new students than expected (at least I remember being deluged in new student orientation after she visited a neighborhood!).  In this case, it was the resource of reading online maps that bridged the gap, and although she wasn’t able to navigate the websites at the end, she could read the printed out maps to navigate the neighborhoods which was the ultimate goal of the lesson.  I call that a success!


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