5 Ways To Explore With Google

You can also see 7 More Ways To Explore With Google

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the company that is synonymous making the whole world searchable and gave us the ability to explore everything at our fingertips is also a great platform for students to explore a number of learning opportunities. Here are five ways Google allows students to explore the world.

“…so one day my mother sat me down and explained that I couldn’t become an explorer because everything in the world had already been discovered. I’d been born in the wrong century, and I felt cheated.”

― Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Exploring the Earth

My Maps

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 7.47.30 PM.pngWhat better way to start exploring then with a map. Google’s My Maps allows for endless exploration across a variety of subject areas. The concept and procedures are simple.

  • Find an area of a Google Map you want to modify
  • Drop pins (you choose the style/color) at key locations either manually, via search, or by importing
  • You can add info to pins (title, description, additional images, etc.)
  • Zoom to the preferred view and make it the default
  • Draw connection lines or shapes between or around your locations
  • Organize your pins into layers/sections
  • You can share the maps or embed them on a Google Site

You and students can create your own maps or explore what others have made. You can map out literary locations along with important details from the story. Have students map out historical event locations, world biomes, animal ranges, or class field trips. Feel free to check out the London of Sherlock Homes or information on California’s wildfires.

Tour Builder

What the My Maps software does for Google Maps, Google Tour Builder does for Google Earth. You’re able to add even more details to the journey through photos, text, and videos. It’s all accessible from a browser without having to load Google Earth separately. Check out some famous US landmarks, the life of Jane Goodall, or one soldier’s experience in Vietnam.

Lit Trips

Poems snag.pngLit Trips is a site that has a massive collection of pre-made Tour Builder stories for a number of grade levels. All you have to do is sign up (it’s free), request the story you want, and load the KML or KMZ file from the email you receive. Not the files are yet compatible with the online version of Google Earth so you may need to download the desktop version. They can allow you to follow the Joad’s through Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath or follow the journey of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. There are more than 80 story maps already ready to use.

Earth Picker

If instead of touring around the world you would rather assess how well students know it, Earth Picker is a game where students are dropped into a Google Street View location and they have to use context to clues to see how close to the actual location they can pin it on the map. You get five locations to see how close you can get. Can you beat your best score?

Google Expeditions

Screen Shot 2017-12-16 at 7.02.45 AM.pngIf you’re prepared to go on a real adventure both in the world and as a teacher exploring new technologies, Google Expeditions can give your students an incredibly memorable learning experience. While BestBuy does sell Google Expedition kits, if your school subscribes to a BYOD model, Google Expeditions is one of the least expensive ways to bring virtual reality into your classroom. You don’t need an extra router. In fact, you don’t even need internet access to make it work. Student’s can use their own smartphone or iPod with the Expeditions app installed and an inexpensive viewer like Google Cardboard.

nexus2cee_expeditions.pngFor those unfamiliar with the experience, think of it like an old-school Viewmaster that surrounds you and can be controlled by the teacher. In fact, Viewmaster has its own brand of VR viewer that will work with Expeditions. Teachers can take students on a 360° panoramic view of other nations, ancient sites, important historical events, outer space, life underwater, inside the human body, prehistoric extinction, or a day in the life of a professional. The lessons include explanations of what students are seeing as well as 3 levels of assessment questions. Teachers can even pause the experience or direct student views towards a particular area of importance.

Google recommends that it is only used with students in 2nd grade and above both because of the content, but also because it can cause eye strain and affect depth perception in developing children. It’s not as intense of an experience as the higher VR systems which recommend it only for children above 12 or 13. Because they’re not attached, students (and adults) can take them off easily if they begin to feel uncomfortable either due to nausea or because the sharks are too scary up close. Personally, my students have found it to be one of the most engaging experiences they’ve had in the classroom and it has led to many wonderful discussions.

While Google Expeditions was still being tested, teachers, like me, could bring it to their school free of charge through their pioneer program. They are now offering the same opportunity with the new Expeditions AR Pioneer Program, and it wouldn’t even require a viewer. You can bring the world to your students in ways that may be limited (or impractical) through physical models.

You can also find more information on formative assessment and ways to make learning accessible to all learners through Google.