An Equitable Ice Breaker Using Google Maps

Does your online ice breaker need a refresh? Chelsea Cohen has a great idea that will get your students connected and take the edge off the start of a new course!

In the 4-minute video embedded above, she will take you on a tour of her course and show you how she blends a Canvas Discussion with an interactive Google Map to create a 2-part assignment. Her students, who are English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) learners, drop a pin on a Google Map that designates their home town and add a photo of that location. As you will see, the map transforms into a contextual representation of the students’ backgrounds, inviting them to share meaningful experiences.

If you use Google Maps in your course, include a link to Google’s Accessibility in Google Maps page to ensure all your students can engage with the content. And offer an alternative pathway for students to contribute their content if they experience challenges.

Let Chelsea be your guide — click the video above and enjoy the ride!

Posted in Articles, Course Design Showcase, Rubric Section A, Rubric Section B, Uncategorized.

Chelsea is a tenured instructor of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and the Distance Education Coordinator at Laney College. She is also a lead reviewer for the Online Education Initiative and a new facilitator for @ONE. She is passionate about helping her colleagues develop creative, inclusive activities for their online classes, and equipping her students with technology skills that will open doors in both their educational and professional lives.


  1. Hi Chelsea! I stole this idea from you when you shared it in the @ONE course 10-10-10. I love how easy My Maps is to use. It’s notable that your students are truly from all over the world. When I tried it out last semester for my online class at Barstow Community College, most of my students were from the L.A. area. I was one of the few people in the class from outside California.

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