Google’s Geo Tools for Learning

This past July, I had the privilege to attend the Google Geo Institute at the Mountain View headquarters. 75 educators from all over the US spent three days learning about Google’s Geo Tools and how to implement them in the classroom.  I had attended the Geo Institute back in 2013 but the tools have changed so much that I wanted an update.

It was great to really dive into the newly updated  Google Earth (https://earth.google.com/web). Students can travel the world and explore new places using a web browser – no download required! They can see places like exotic cities, landmarks in 3D and buildings from close up using Street View. Photospheres are 360-degree photos that provide real views of our world – even the International Space Station!

A great way to pique student’s interest in exotic places is using a feature called Voyager. Voyager is a collection of map-based tours written by Google Earth partners that provide guided stories on topics like travel, culture, nature, and history.

There is power in students creating their own maps to help them visualize information or tell a story.  Students can use Google Tour Builder (https://tourbuilder.withgoogle.com/) to write place-based stories that follow a journey on a map.  The addition of multiple images and videos can make the journey come to life.

I have used Google My Maps (https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/) because it allows multiple students to collaborate on an interactive map together. Here is a simple example showing famous landmarks in Oregon.

 How about taking students on virtual field trips to engage their curiosity? Google Expeditions allows students to swim with the sharks, visit outer space, or walk through a museum without leaving the classroom. Each participant will need a mobile device that fits into a virtual-reality (VR) viewer. Teachers then can choose from over 500 Google Expeditions (http://mrcaffrey.com/google-expeditions-world-map/) to share with their students. Get some lesson ideas on using Expeditions (and others) at https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/google.

Here are some additional geography resources that I learned about at the 2017 CA Geo Institute or were shared by attendees:

Augmented Reality Apps (shows a view of the real world in front of you, then put a layer of information, including text and/or images, on top of that view)

Virtual Reality Apps (viewing a completely different reality than the one in front of you; may be artificial, such as an animated scene or an actual place that has been photographed)

Here are some additional 2017 CA Geo Institute resources to explore or our shared notes! If you ever have the chance to attend — I highly recommend it!

Look for my next post where I discuss my biggest takeaway from the Geo Institute:

  1. Learning about the Theta 360 camera
  2. Embedding Photospheres into Google Maps
  3. A Pokemon style game you can create with Wikitude

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