By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Crowdsource my class mapping project

Sometime next month, my students in Reinventing the News will be doing a Google map project. The last time I taught the course, I had everyone visit a coffee shop near campus, take a picture, plot it on a map and link to their own blogs for more. Here’s how it turned out.

It was OK, and we might do it again. But I’d be curious to know if anyone had something meatier to suggest. For instance, what if I sent each of them (there are 18) to a different MBTA station? What would you have them do once they got there?

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  1. Send them to hazardous-waste sites within a five-mile radius of Northeastern.

    But if you have them go to T stops, don’t forget the MBTA’s crime stats, mapped by station. Or be mean and send them to the proposed locations of new stops on the Fairmount Line and survey the area around them to determine what sort of development might come when the stations are finished and the line becomes more of a mass-transit system.

  2. Aaron Read

    Break them into three groups: walkman, boombox/component, and car radio.

    Assign each a given radio station. Doesn’t matter which, although I’d suggest WRBB 104.9FM both b/c it’s NEU’s station and because it’s small broadcast radius means the students won’t have to travel too far.

    Have them map out where the signal is considered “listenable” and where it isn’t on a Google map by taking X number of data points. Maybe 10 or 15? Use RecNet’s signal map so they can plan out their data point locations ahead of time. I’d say use the blue city-grade contour just because it’s more than big enough for a teaching purpose.

    They don’t even HAVE to do data points evenly around the circle; even just one quadrant will more than teach the principles involved. Maybe give extra credit for anyone who goes around the perimeter and then some. Although given what neighborhoods that would entail the students going through, maybe you SHOULD limit it to the northwest quadrant.

    You can use any criteria for “listenable” that you want, really. Maybe bring a radio to class, tune it to WRBB so everyone can hear it (whatever quality the signal is, good or bad) and say “use this as your benchmark”.

  3. Google-map locations where you can buy fresh produce and see how/if they correlate with incomes by neighborhood, taken from the last Census. I assume it will be inversely related – no fresh lettuce in poor areas – but perhaps not.

  4. Mike Stucka

    Buddy up with the Bouve folks. Borrow wheelchairs. Snow cleared? Elevators working? Access clearly marked? A way to call for help?

    See how accessible rail stations really are; wasn’t there a report not long ago about that?

    I did a similar project as an undergrad. Even as the son of a quadriplegic, it was eye-opening. (Of course, I did it inside the college itself — finding out some of the wheelchair lifts were broken, some had floormaps that were pretty much impossible to drive over, some had snow that wasn’t really cleared, …)

  5. Michael Pahre

    Have each of them take a video, with sound, of a police officer inside an MBTA station.

    Then, once they are each arrested for violating the MBTA photo policy ban (which no longer exists, despite continuing attempts to enforce it) and the state ban on audio recording in public places (which is on the books but probably violates the federal constitution and case law) you can spend the next week getting them out of jail and explaining it all to their worried parents and the dean.

    Then have them post their mug shots on a Google map at the location of their arrest.

    Then give them all A’s out of guilt.

  6. The Boston Public Library is considering branch and staff cuts to overcome a $3.6 million budget shortfall. What would be the effect on Boston’s neighborhoods? Ask your students to find a neighborhood public library branch–there are 26 in the city. Is the library open when they get there? Is it busy? Can the student find (or even borrow) a favorite book (or dvd)? Or talk with visitors and find out how they would feel if their branch closed or reduced their hours as the trustees are proposing?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Karen: I had considered a branch library project but didn’t think there were enough. I didn’t realize there were 26. We may have a winner – thanks!

  7. LFNeilson

    I’m with Mike S.

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