Interactive Maps

Ordnance Survey MapZone

This is a brilliant site that is perfect for introducing your students (all ages) and staff to the basic concepts behind GIS software. The site contains lots of information on what GIS is, how it is used in the real world as well as links to helpful sites. The best feature though is the GIS missions – or GIS games. Each one can be downloaded and run on your school’s network and they all have downloadable word documents that your students can use while they undertake the GIS missions. A great starting point for anyone interested in GIS.

Protected Planet

This brilliant site lets you search a visual catalogue of the world’s protected areas. Official and community data are combined here to give you a great tool to study these areas of the world. Information is presented using a Google Maps interface that has been customised to allow you to see written information, links and data on each site.

The page takes some of the global data available in the CIA World Factbook and displays it over a 2D or 3D map of the world. I guarentee that you will find something here that you can use in the classroom! A recent update has included EarthTrends data from the World Resources Institute. It should be noted that the tool is a work-in-progress so some features are lacking a touch.

Map of Life

The Map of Life is a well-supported project that organises data on species ranges over a range of beautifully designed basemaps. Currently only vertebrates are covered but the project is very ambitious and aims to include invertebrates and plant species in newer releases. Keep an eye on this one.

WWF Wildfinder

The WWF Wildfinder allows your students to enter the common name of an animal and view its geographic extent. Useful for studies on threatened and endangered animals as information on the threat level and links to images are also provided.

Geoscience Australia Sentinel

Geoscience Australia is the federal government’s mapping and geophysical sciences department. They have a range of great GIS data and online maps which you can navigate to from the link, but this site is specifically good in that you can view current or recent bushfire hotspots as well as overlay current air pressure and wind information. As well as these features, you can search a database of hotspots across the country or in specific areas. Try searching around Canberra in late January 2003 to see the amount of bushfires in the area.

Old Maps Online

A simple historical map tool that will have 60,000 historic maps online by the end of 2012. Search for your location of interest and you will be presented with historic maps that cover the same area. You can then view the old maps and in some cases, download the maps.

Maps of War

A great site that contains flash animations and maps of various conflicts, and more, over time. There are some excellent resources for the two World Wars as well as current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The History of Religion and Who Has Controlled the Middle East maps will give your students new perpectives on these topics for sure.


ShowRWorld does much the same as the WorldMapper site however here you will find a range of topics that may not be covered elsewhere. For example you can get maps showing you different crops around the world, the numbers of IKEA stores, numbers of registered soccer players as well as more conventional statistics.

Online Global Reefs Map

A simple online tool from the World Resources Institute that shows you the different levels of threat around the world’s reefs. The site uses Google Maps to display the data. A very simple tool.

National Geographic MapMaker Interactive

Another very simple interface makes this a great spatial tool for beginners. You can overlay a range of themes onto a map, for instance population density or precipitation. You can also change the background to view a satellite map or street map. There are simple markers and drawing tools that you can use to customise your map and there is an export tool to let you create your map as an image for printing or inclusion in a report.

Online Map Editors

Google Maps

The king of the online map editors. Free and relatively easy-to-use, Google Maps allows users to view a range of information across the world. Users, when signed in to their Google Account, can create, save and share maps as well as easily integrate their maps into Google Earth. See our Google Maps YouTube playlist for hints on how to use the software and check out our resources page for classroom activities that use Google Maps. Finally, Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources and Mines has a resource developed for the draft Australian Curriculum: Geography here (it’s wonderful, I wrote it!).


GmapsGIS is simply a cut-down version of Google Maps that allows you to add your own points, lines, shapes, text and images to a map. You can add XY data from a table (a spreadsheet that contains a latitude field and a longitude field) as well as exporting your drawings to Google Earth. An easy, no-risk way to test the water.

Scribble Maps

Scribble Maps is essentially Google Maps with a built in notepad function. You can draw on maps, add images, add text and save your creations. You can do all of this over a road map, terrain map or even satellite image. This should be very useful for local field studies and the Pro version (free) allows you to import GPS data and overlay shapefile data on your map.


Umapper is similar to Scribble Maps in that you can draw on and edit a map after you have signed in. You can also link to data feeds from KML, GPX or GeoRSS sources. For instance, you could link to the USGS earthquake feeds and create an always-up-to-date map of recent earthquakes. Explore!

ArcGIS Explorer Online (AGXO)

ESRI have been busy creating a number of new spatial applications in recent years that are more flexible and accessible than ArcGIS, their desktop behemoth. ArcGIS Explorer is one of those and allows you to create really nice maps from a range of sources. You could create the map features manually or you could import GPX, ESRI Shapefile or data from a table. Check out ArcLessons for ideas for classroom use (hint, you can set your software to ArcGIS Explorer to filter the most useful results).

Free Software Applications


The Quantum GIS project is an open source GIS application that supports a number of geographic file types – including ESRI’s shapefile format. The software allows you to visualise, manage, query and analyse data and to compose maps for printing. The software is free and runs on Windows, Linux or Mac.

Google Earth

Google Earth is probably the most famous GIS application out there; whether you are viewing your backyard or observing the pattern of urban development in India, Google Earth can help you out. You will need to download and install the software before you can view your world or to create your own maps. See our guide to using Google Earth for Virtual Field Trips for more information (and links to helpful Google earth blogs and online resources) on using this wonderful piece of software. Windows and Mac.

ArcGIS Explorer Desktop

ArcGIS Explorer is a 3D mapping application that is really a combination of ESRI’s full-blown ArcGIS software and Google Earth. You can access a variety of background maps over the 3D globe and you can very easily view and create your own layers on top of these maps in eaither kml format or ESRI’s shapefile format. Images, videos and other content can be added to the data you create. This means you can use the software standalone or you create specific data-sets in ArcGIS and then view them in ArcGIS Explorer for that ‘wow’ factor that comes with viewing data over a 3D globe. Fantastic but Windows only (sorry Mac people!).


AEJEE (ArcExplorer: Java Edition for Education) is described by ESRI as a ‘lightweight GIS tool’ and that is exactly what it is. It has more in common with ESRI’s ArcGIS/ArcView software than Google Earth or ArcGIS Explorer. It is essentially a 2D map viewer with a range of tools that allows you to view data and change the way the data is symboloised. You can use Excel 2003 to add data to a layer and you can also import data from your GPS – check out the wonderful Help file that comes with the software (written by a member of the ESRI Education Team). The download is Windows or Mac compatible and comes with some global and US data to get you started. Windows and Mac.

NASA World Wind

NASA World Wind comes in two formats, an older .Net version that should be suitable for most schools and a newer Java version. It is a 3D world viewer that allows you to view a whole range of different base layers. Users can view the world in 3D, view world temperature data, vegetation and landcover, various satellite images and more. Windows only.

Blogs and Geospatial Information Sites

Spatial Worlds

Malcolm McInerney has created this blog site as a way to record his ideas for GIS and share resources for the teaching community. Check back regularly for more thoughts.

Spatial in Schools

A Scoopit! page that we have created to aggregate all of the most relevant articles and links to resources for those educators using spatial technologies. There is a mix of articles, with a nod to those that offer particularly interesting insights in the world of spatial technologies in our classrooms.

Destination Spatial

The Destination Spatial site is a great resource for finding out where spatial technologies can take your students. They can check out tertiary courses in the field and look at the different professions that use spatial technologies in their jobs. Great for those students who are keen on the technologies in the classroom.

The Geospatial Revolution

The Geospatial Revolution website is an ongoing project that aims to highlight the way geospatial technologies are changing the world we live in. There are some fantastic videos that outline the history and relevance of spatial technologies as well as resources for educators and links to other online resources.

Geoscience Australia MapConnect

The free MapConnect service allows you to view and download Geoscience Australia’s spatial data for any location across Australia. Major infrastructure, roads and rail, localities, landuse, contours and spot heights, and vegetation cover (and more) can all be downloaded for free. Check out the user guide we developed for ESRI Australia to get started.

Free Geography Tools

This blog updates regularly and provides links to a range of online tools related to Geography. From websites to blogs to downloadable resources, if it is free and if it relates to Geography, chances are you will find it here.


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