A few days ago, Google updated its mobile Map app. Probably not a huge thing for you and your kids. But it is a reminder that our world is changing. In some instances, rather quickly. More and more of what we see, use, consume, share, and teach is moving to mobile devices.

When was the last time you pulled over to the side of the road and pulled out that massive print road atlas? Some of you, probably never. I still have one in my trunk cause . . . trust me, there are lots of places in western Kansas where your cell signal goes to die.

Three days ago, my senior in high school freaked out because I asked her to call a neighbor on their landline. She wasn’t even sure if they had a landline. They did. But no one answered. The neighbor texted minutes later to ask what she needed.

I still read the Sunday edition of the Wichita newspaper. I would read it every day if they actually delivered it every day. But they don’t. Because they’re printing fewer actual papers and publishing more online. So like most of North America, I get my news digitally. My favs? Flipboard, Zite, and the digital NY Times.

Documents live in the cloud. Not on paper. Google Drive, Dropbox, Storehouse, and my latest fav, Adobe Voice, store and share work virtually.

Historical documents are archived and digitized. Artifacts are mapped in 3D, shared via the web, and printed out on the other end using 3D printers.

Books and articles are created, saved, shared, and read on mobile devices. (Check out the latest iBook on Ancient Egypt. Perfect for you 6th grade teachers.)

So while the Google Maps update does have some cool features (scroll down for a overview) take the update as a sign. Your world, and that of your students, is changing. Curriculum design and delivery. Collaboration between you and students, students and students, students and experts. Assessment. Creation of products. Collection and storing of information.

The world is moving to mobile. And K-12 education, always slow to accept change, has no place to hide.

A good way to crawl out of your hiding place, if you haven’t already, is by using more of Google’s geography tools. The mobile Maps update gives you:

  • Turn-by-turn navigation now tells you what lane you should be in so you don’t miss your exit, as well as a better view of alternate routes, distance, and your ETA.
  • Google syncs your offline maps and saved locations across devices, as long as you’re signed in to your Google account.
  • Transit directions now show you the total walking time as well as the next departing train.
  • You can now filter places results by open hours, rating, price, and other factors.

I think that the biggest thing for teachers in this update is Google now lets you more easily download maps for offline use – just find an area, tap on its info sheet, and tap “Save Map to Use Offline.” This become useful when your school’s internet is down or you’re on a field trip. You do need to be signed in for your map to be stored.

Before setting off on your next lesson, field trip, or virtual exploration, search for an area and tap on its place info sheet, select “Save map to use offline,” and give your map a custom name, like “Gettysburg National Park.” To find your offline maps, sign-in, tap the profile icon next to the search box in the top right corner, and scroll to see “Gettysburg National Park” and any other saved maps.

maps offline

You can also see places you’ve saved on Google Maps across all your devices when you’re signed in. And if you find a place you want to save on the go, search for the location you’re interested in, tap on the place card, and hit the star icon to save the location for later.

The update is for both iOS and Android.

But don’t forget about other geography tools such as:

The world is moving to different place. Better jump on now.