Use Felt To Make Beautiful Maps In The Classroom

Mapping in the Classrom

I no longer follow the NFL because of CTE and the blackballing of Colin Kaepernick but watching it as a child left an indelible impression on me: Thanks to John Madden and his telestrator, I firmly believe that if you can draw on something, you can explain it.

A video of John Madden explaining an indoor blimp by drawing on the screen with a telestrator.

Whether drawing in Google Workspace apps or editing the color and size of scribbles in FigJam, teachers should take advantage of drawing with their students. As a former Social Studies teacher, I would love to draw on maps like Madden drew on the screen.

Fortunately, there is a relatively new web-based map tool that includes drawing and so much more. Meet Felt. As someone who has used Google My Maps a lot, I think of Felt as online mapping that is creative, artistic, fun, and decluttered. Continue reading to learn why Felt should be the standard mapping app in K-12 classrooms.


Drawing is so integral to Felt that when Mamata Akella, one of Felt’s cartographers, was interviewed for the Pollinate podcast, she shared that the name “Felt” was inspired by felt tip markers.

Go to 26:17 to listen to Mamata Akella’s answer to the question, “What is Felt?”

The drawing tools in Felt include a marker and highlighter. Each is available in three sizes and any web color. Students and teachers can draw anywhere on a map like they are John Madden.

The marker and highlighter in the Felt toolbar. Click the + button with the color options for any web color.
The Felt drawing tools.


The true magic of Felt is in real-time collaboration. Add collaborators or set it to anyone with the link can edit with the pink Share button in the upper-right corner. See where other collaborators are on a map and immediately see elements they add. Collaboration is best in small groups of about five students but can also work for whole-class collaborative mapping activities. Additionally, hover over any collaborator’s icon in the upper-right corner to see who has contributed what to a map. This feature is perfect for accountability.

May 30, 2023 UPDATE: Collaboration in Felt is even better now that it has a comment feature!

Add Text to a Map

While you can add text to points on a map, you can also add text on the map using the text option or notes. Notes are rectangular blocks of text with any web color as their background.

What a great way to add information to maps. Bob Dillon shared an idea with me for students to use text to make comments on points and places on a map. Angelica Rodriguez-Arriaga made this gorgeous map of California’s water history with notes where collaborators can add questions.

A Felt map of water in California with purple notes where students can add their questions.
Use notes to gather questions as Angelica Rodriguez-Arriaga did on this map.

Play YouTube Videos on a Map

You can use the link button to insert a link to a YouTube video or copy and paste the link onto the map. Collaborators and viewers can watch the video on the map without opening a new tab.

A YouTube video that demonstrates how to add a YouTube video to a Felt map.

Add Links to a Map

You can also use the link button or copy-paste to add links with editable rich text previews to a map. This feature is perfect for adding easy-to-read links to more resources on a map.

A YouTube video that demonstrates how to add rich-text hyperlink previews to a Felt map.

Felt Maps are Beautiful

Maps created in Felt are easy to process. Editors have a large layer library (for example, census block groups, time zones, congressional districts, plant hardiness zones, and so much more) to choose from, or they can use no underlying layer. The layer library has six categories:

  • General
  • Boundaries
  • Climate
  • Infrastructure
  • Nature & Exploration
  • Science
The Felt layer library.
Click the layer button in the toolbar to add impressive data layers to a Felt map.

Felt is so new that its embed feature does not work with WordPress yet, but here are three maps I created with no underlying layer:

Open Felt Maps in FigJams

Copy and paste a Felt map in a FigJam. You will see a thumbnail. Click “View.” Then click the Maximize button. The map expands in the FigJam screen. No new tab is needed. FigJams are also viewable in Felt maps, but without “Maximize” option. Having whiteboard and map tools that play together nicely is a benefit for teachers using technology to facilitate collaboration. Check out this French Revolution Timeline FigJam to see a Felt Map in a FigJam:

A YouTube video that demonstrates how to add Felt Maps to FigJams and vice-versa.

Further Reading

I owe Richard Byrne a debt of gratitude for turning me on to Felt. Please check out his blog for detailed tutorials on Felt features.

What do you think? How will you use Felt for collaborative mapping with students in the classroom?

Does your school need professional development that helps teachers take advantage of Felt and EdTech? Look at some of my offerings and connect with me on Twitter.

Photo by Z on Unsplash.


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