Monday, May 16, 2011

Crew Review: WonderMaps

I *heart* geography.  I was one of those kids/ teens who could stare at an atlas for hours.  Do you know what happens when a kid like me grows up? I'm an adult that can stare at an atlas for hours.  

Can you imagine my reaction when the opportunity to review a new, digital map product presented itself?  (Think happy-dancing' around the kitchen!) I was SO beyond excited -- have I mentioned I love maps?

Bright Idea Press' new product is called WonderMaps.The concept is truly wonderful.  Here's their video tutorial.  I think it will answer most of your questions about this new product:

A couple of additional points to supplement the tutorial:
  1. Your license allows you to load the software on two computers in the same family, plus have a backup copy.
  2. Two workshop mp3s are available for download through the Teacher's Guide link:  Loving Geography and Pacing a Punch with Timelines and Maps. A surprise extra!
  3. Map sets from Mystery of History and All American History are available through the program. There are outline maps for MOH that are for the geography component of the resource. Answer keys are provided.  the AAH I maps are pre-marked with battlefields, routes and places of historical interest.  These are not blank maps for students to fill in. AAH II maps appear to be base maps that students can then mark routes and sites. (Note, I'm not a user of either of these resources, so I'm not familiar with their map work).
  4. Your purchase will allow you to register your product at the BIP's Member's Site.  Updates, when available, will be posted on that site.
Isn't the idea of WonderMaps just so simple? You can print a map for your grammar students with labels and print the same map without labels for your logic or rhetoric students.  You can zoom in on a portion of a map and print just that part.

The product is available for $49.95 (as a CD or download)**.  It contains:
  • 60+ maps of the world (continents, regions, and countries)
  • 60+ maps of the USA (regional and state)
  • 125 historical maps, including 38 maps for ancient history; 28 middle ages maps; 25 renaissance maps; and 35 maps for the time period from 1720s through present time (the last map is of the European Union).  You can view the maps through the yellowish "Historical Maps" button on the home screen or by theme (such as "Native Americans") by clicking through the purple "Thematic Maps" button on the home screen. [see screen shot on the right]
Here is a sample of the maps available on the software:

Our Experience.  WonderMaps arrived just in time for our history group's study about the French and Indian War. Here's the map that was available for me to use (this is a partial screenshot):

I chose to use the modern border layer so the children could visualize where the famous battles took place.  I had planned to print the map without fort names so the children could label them.  However, I could not use the map, because Fort Duquesne and Fort Necessity were both misplaced on the map.  Both forts are in Pennsylvania (Duquesne is now Pittsburg):

I cannot even begin to tell you how disappointed I was.  I know that the mistake was a simple misplacement.  I know that this is a version 1.0 product, and that there are always bound to be mistakes -- no one is perfect.  I know I could have removed the state boundaries, therefore not highlighting the fact that the two forts are too far to the west.  

I wanted to use the Revolutionary War battles map two weeks later.  However, there were several mis-labeled locations on this map as well (granted, the mislabelings are in a geographically small area of Boston, so it is hard to label events so that students' can see the individual bullet locations).

I've spent a lot of time wanting to use WonderMaps.  I love the layers, I love the topographical overlays (which can be printed in black and white or color), and I love the graticules and labels.
Look at those beautiful mountain ranges!

I think WonderMaps is ideal:
1. for a large family who needs to print versions of the same map for differing grade levels.
2. for people who LOVE detailed mapwork
3. for families who use historical mapwork in their programs.
4. for families who do a lot of geographical studies (I'm thinking of programs like Galloping the Globe or continental unit studies).
5. for families who will be homeschooling for the long hall.  Access to updated maps via BIP's member site is a great feature.
6. for any family who is using a classical education (not just using MOH or AAH).  The maps are beautiful, professional grade maps.

I really do love WonderMaps, and I know that they will be of great use to my family as the kids grow and are using reference atlases to locate events and places and then transfer that information to a paper map (which will begin to occur next year for my rising 7th grader).  I am disappointed in some of the errors I've found on the historical maps;   I know BIP has a great reputation in the homeschool community, and I look forward to map updates as they are made available. Update:  I received an email from the company this morning.  They will likely have an updated version (called 1.01) at the end of this summer to correct these errors in the historical maps.  Yea!

Please consider reading what others said about WonderMaps at the Review Crew. A lot of people didn't have nearly the trouble I did!

You can learn more who Bright Ideas Press is by visiting About BIP, their Store, and Technical FAQs here.

**Psst.  TOS subscribers should look for a coupon code in their recent magazines!

Thank you to Bright Ideas Press for a free copy of WonderMaps in exchange for my honest opinion about their product. No other compensation was given.

1 comment:

Dana said...

I *heart* maps too!!! Probably don't need this program though since I don't homeschool, but I was just excited to know there are other people out there that love maps like I do. :)