Google My Maps Tips and Tricks

Google My Maps is a great tool for teachers and learners. Teachers can use it as an interactive platform to present lesson materials. Learners can use Google My Maps to document what they have learned.

For example, here is a Google My Map I created of Civil War battles in North Carolina for a Civil War digital breakout:

One of my favorite Google My Maps is this ingenious map someone made documenting every location in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia:

To access Google My Maps, type google.com/mymaps into the browser. Unfortunately, My Maps does not appear in the apps launcher (AKA the waffle in the upper right of the screen in Gmail, Drive, and Classroom) so it makes sense to bookmark it or pin it to a Chromebook shelf.

Here is a brief overview video of using My Maps in which I make a map of Amsterdam and reference The Fault in Our Stars:

Use these tips and tricks to get even more out of Google My Maps.

Create in Google Drive

As I did in the video, create My Maps in Google Drive folders so they stay organized with other content for a given instructional unit.

Create a My Map in a Google Drive folder
Creating a My Map in a Google Drive folder.

Change the base map

Scroll to the bottom of the legend to change the base map to one of nine different options. The default is “Map.” I am partial to “Simple Atlas” for historic maps.

Animated GIF demonstrating how to change the base map
Changing the Base map.

Like a map? Copy it for yourself!

Click on the “NOT OWNED” tab in the My Maps home screen. You should see thumbnails of every Google My Map you have viewed and you don’t own, including the North Carolina battles and Always Sunny maps higher up in this post! Click on the three dots in the upper-right corner of the thumbnail to make a copy for yourself.

Animated GIF showing how to make a copy of a map
Make a copy of a map you like.

Explore the EXPLORE tab

Click on the EXPLORE tab to see Google My Maps other users have created. At the top is the top picks. I can’t lie – you will see a lot of Pokémon GO maps there.

Animated GIF of toggling between top maps in the Explore tab.
Click the arrows to toggle between Pokémon GO maps and more!

Scroll down to see staff picks to find some very interesting maps. This can inspire creative use of My Maps.

Animated GIF of scrolling to see more staff picks in the explore tab.
Scroll down to see more staff picks.

Open a My Map in Google Earth

Export the data from a My Map as a KMZ file. Leave all boxes unchecked to download:

Animated GIF depicting exporting a My Map as a KMZ file.
Export a My Map as a KMZ file. Leave all boxes unchecked.

Then go to Google Earth and enable adding KML/KMZ files in settings:

Enabling KML and KMZ files in Google Earth.
Click “My Places.” Then enable KML and KMZ files.

Then import the KMZ file:

Animated GIF depicting importing a KMZ file into Google Earth.
Click on “My Places” to import the KMZ from a hard drive or Google Drive.

Most data from the My Map will successfully convert to Google Earth, including pictures and text descriptions.

An image an description from Google My Maps in Google Earth.
An image an description from Google My Maps in Google Earth.

One caveat: According to Google, “Some custom icons and overlay images hosted on other websites won’t work.” The two maps in this post do not have custom icons, so their KMZ files import into Google Earth nicely. If the custom icon does not work in Google Earth, it will render like a red “X” similar to the one that appears for a wrong answer on Family Feud. Some custom icons do work though. The custom icons on this My Map of some San Francisco New Deal sites render correctly. That may be because the custom icons were created using image URLs.

Animated GIF of Google My Map data in Google Earth.
The custom icons render correctly. Notice the images and text from the My Map made it to Google Earth as well.

Google Classroom integration…almost but not quite

The good news is that teachers can share maps so that students can view them and they can share a map so that all students can edit it. This is similar to settings for other Google Drive files in Google Classroom. The bad news is this is what happens when teachers try to make a copy of a My Map for each student in Google Classroom:

Animated GIF demonstrating that "Make a copy for each student" with My Maps does not work in Google Classroom.
Make a copy for each student does not yet work in Google Classroom.

I hope Google addresses this issue in the near future. In the meantime, My Maps is still a great tool for teachers and learners alike. If you would like to share your ideas about the Google My Maps, please comment below or tweet me at @TomEMullaney. Thank you for reading.

This is the Google My Maps icon image I used in the image for this post.

 

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8 thoughts on “Google My Maps Tips and Tricks

  1. […] If you are looking for a way for students to collaborate on a map that shares a series of locations, Google My Maps would be a good fit.  It has several of the same features of Google Tour Builder but does not support the image and video files for each location.  It does embed into a Google Site, which would be a great way to share the finished maps.  Google My Maps Tips and Tricks […]

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  2. This is a good overview of Google Maps Tom. I note your issue with sharing ‘a copy’ of a map. I wonder if this relates in part to the fact that MyMaps is not a part of the core Education offering? One workaround that I have used in the past is have teachers provide a copy of a KMZ and then get students to load this. Although it involves a few more steps, it at least gets there in the end.

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    1. Hi Aaron, thanks for sharing that workaround. That is a good idea. I bet you’re right about it not being a core app, so it doesn’t fully function in Classroom. I’m going to leave feedback requesting they make My Maps a core EDU app.

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  3. It’s frustrating that one can’t import a sheet with addresses into My Maps and generate a map that one can follow. That is, create a map from which one can navigate while driving.

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  4. Tom, thank you for the tutorial. I found it very helpful! One bug I’m having that I haven’t been able to track down an answer to:
    When I share the link to my map (used as a a way to share travel stories/photos with friends), not only do my uploaded photos appear, but also random google images from the location from the internet. Any advice on how to disable this function? I would prefer only my personal uploaded photos be included as otherwise it’s confusing to viewers…
    Note: While editing the map none of these extra images are there. It’s only on the public viewing platform.

    Thanks again!

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    1. When you add a location to a map, you see a gray box titled, “Details from Google Maps.” To the right of that title is the word “Remove.” Click “Remove.” It should remove those images. I hope that helps.

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