• Dave Foord
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Creating a ‘distance from’ Google Map

My wife and I are currently campaigning to keep the midwife run birthing unit of St Mary’s in Melton Mowbray open – this was where we had 2 of our 3 kids, and think that it will be a real shame if it is closed.

As part of the campaign, my wife wanted to plot on a map the distances from all the birthing centres in the area – as there is a Government agenda that all people should have the choice of where to give birth (hospital, mid wife run centre or home) and this has been interpreted by some as travelling less than 15 miles. I did some searching and found out that Google Maps could represent this quite nicely – the end result being

Map showing the 'catchment areas' for birth centres around Melton Mowbray

Map showing the 'catchment areas' for birth centres around Melton Mowbray

(click on the image to see the map in Google maps)

To create this, we first of all found the postcodes of the different birthing centres, and used http://www.batchgeo.com/ to create a kml file which will plot the points for the birthing centres onto the map (click here to read an earlier blog post on this)

In the past when I have done this, it gave each point a black and white icon, when I did it this time it applied no icon, so I had to click on each point in turn to format the icons – for this set it was OK as only a small number of points. I will blog again another day showing how you can get the pins to automatically add.

Then I needed to create the radius diagrams around each pin – there are various ways to do this with an exact circle, but the technique that I used actually worked out distances based on a car journey – for this I used http://www.freemaptools.com/how-far-can-i-travel.htm I had to go through my points in turn, and enter the postcode, I then chose my settings (in my case 24 km = 15miles) but I could have used a time. This then again produced a kml file, which I could add to my map exactly the same as with the earlier method.

This technique has obvious uses for geography students, but I can also see this being used by travel and tourism, leisure, business and many more.

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Quickly creating a Google Map from a Spreadsheet of data

I think that Google Maps are a really useful tool, and everytime that I need to visit somewhere new, the first thing I do is put the postcode into Google Maps, and save the location. This way if I visit that town or city again, but to a different location I can see where the new location is in relation to the previous one, which helps me with my navigating. I recognise that many will use their in car sat nav systems, but because I mainly use the train I still use paper maps for these purposes.

One thing though that I have found hard in the past, is uploading lots of points to a map – which done manually takes an age, so I was relieved when I found a technique that does this for me.

We start of by using http://www.batchgeocode.com/ which looks a bit scary on first inspection, but is OK once you have used it a few times. Here are the steps to follow

  1. Create a spreadsheet with your table of information in – it can have whatever you want in there, as long as the postcode is in its own column, and the top row are column headings
  2. Copy the contents of your table (highlight and Ctrl-C) – including the column headings – Go back to http://www.batchgeocode.com/ and paste into the ‘table’ in step 2
  3. Validate the code by clicking the button
  4. In step 4 you tell it, what information to include and where – so for example next to ‘PostCode’  choose the post code column from your table – and for ‘Title’ Choose whatever you want the point on the map to be called. It may take a few attempts to get these settings right, but after a few goes makes sense.
  5. Run the geocoder by pressing the button – this will create a table similar to above, but with 2 extra columns giving longitudinal and latitudinal GPS co-ordinates
  6. At the bottom of Step 6, you should see your map, and below it a button to ‘Download to Google Earth (KML) file’ – click on this
  7. Save the KML file somewhere (e.g. desktop)
  8. Go to Google Maps
  9. if you don’t have a Google Account you may need to create 1, if you already have one, then go to My Maps
  10. Create a New Map
  11. Choose the mport option at the top left of the screen
  12. Browse to find the KML file that you found earlier
  13. And as if by magic, your map appears.

This I find very useful.

Embedding Google Maps into learning resources

I love maps and always have done. Prior to having kids my main hobby was mountaineering, and I used to spend over 100 days per year involved in this, so maps to me are an everyday part of my life, and I love Google maps – being able to see a map of an area, and then view the satelite image of it, I find very useful and interesting, and something that a lot of people don’t realise is that for any map that you produce, you can get some embed code – so that you can embed it into a learning platform (Moodle, Blackboard, etc) or into a wiki, blog or other editable bit of webspace. Now for certain topics this could be really good – the example below shows the location of car sales places in my home town of Loughborough – which could be used in a geography lesson – all I had to do was

  1. zoom the map into Loughborough
  2. then type ‘car sales’ into the search box which added the pins to the map
  3. Top right of the map is a link icon – click on this
  4. This gives me the embed code, which I can add to my learning resource

This is very quick to do – you can then click on the ‘view larger map’ option to view it in its own window, and zoom, move etc

Very easy to do, and for relevant subjects very useful.