Connecting Students to Curriculum Through Google Tour Builder

As someone who is no longer in the classroom on a daily basis, it’s really fun for me to get to work with a teacher on a project that we know is going to have a really big impact on students’ learning. The teacher is excited because they know what a difference using this technology will make on their lesson, and I’m all jazzed because they are so psyched.  Last week I had one of those days with an 8th grade ELA teacher!

Over the summer I did a technology Bootcamp for this particular district. One of the sessions I do in the Bootcamp is called Incorporating Google Maps Across Disciplines, and in this session, I always cover Google Tour Builder. This particular teacher has been waiting all year to use if for her upcoming unit, and that time has finally come.

So what is Tour Builder? Tour Builder uses Google Earth technology and allows you to add a sequence of locations on a map that users can click through like they’re going on a tour. You can upload up to 25 photos and YouTube videos to go along with each stop on the tour. You can also add a description and links to additional resources for each location that you add. When users view the Tour, they will click “next” on the tour to be taken to the next point on the map. Check out this example by the Jane Goodall Institute to get the gist of it. Tour Builder was originally created, “to give veterans a way to record all the places that military service has taken them, and preserve their stories and memories as a legacy for their families,” according to the Tour Builder website. Obviously, Google saw the cool ways this could be used in education and beyond and eventually made it public.

The teacher I met with is getting ready to introduce the novel Buried in the Sky (in place of My Everest Story), which takes place in Nepal, Pakistan, China and the K2 Mountain. I would venture to guess that none (at most, one or two) of these students have been to this part of the world or anywhere else like it. The teacher plans to use Tour Builder to give the students a better sense of where in the world this story takes place, as well as use pictures at each point on the tour to add more context to the locations on the map. For example, One of the first stops on the tour is Kathmandu, Nepal. She added about 10-15 pictures of the city of Kathmandu, which will show up next to the map. She used the description area to give the students context about the particular location and asks them questions that they could infer about the area based on the images and location. This concept is pretty much identical to Google Lit Trips, except you would use Tour Builder (which works on Chromebooks) instead of Google Earth.

I remember reading Into Thin Air in- I think- 9th grade. What a HUGE difference having something like Tour Builder would have made on my understanding of the book. I went through most of the book without really understanding where Mount Everest, the Himalayas or Nepal even were. I must not have been paying attention when my teacher pulled down the big map in the front of the classroom to point it out… If I had actually gotten to interact with the material and the maps in the way these students will interact with the Buried In The Sky Tour their teacher is creating for them, I would likely have had a much better understanding of what was going on.

Talk about being able to do things with technology that were not possible before! For those folks who like to use the SAMR model for technology integration, this type of activity absolutely goes in the Modification arena, if not the Redefinition zone, depending on what you do with it. My favorite image to describe SAMR is a sketchnote by none other than Sylvia Duckworth (and Educational App Advice) to the right.

So it goes without saying that Tour Builder would be great in social studies classes, and now you can see how awesome it would be in ELA classes, but what about science, math and other classes? Don’t worry, it would actually work great in those classes too!

Have you heard of Google Earth Walks? If not, you should definitely check them out because you can apply those same concepts to Tour Builder instead of Google Earth. It’s basically a Google Lit Trip, or the same type of activity the 8th grade ELA teacher I described above will be doing, but you would stop at each point on the tour and solve math equations or apply science concepts to real places. Since it uses Google Earth technology, you can even go under water! Foreign language teachers, you can take your students on a tour of an insert your studied language-speaking country, add pictures and video that represent the area and then ask students questions in your studied language in the description area. Art teachers, take a tour of an artist’s life, stopping at all the places that influenced their work. Tour Builder is also a great tool to have students create a tour of a character from a book, a historical event, an artist they’re studying, a get to know you activity and so much more!

For instructions on setting up your own Tour, check out the slideshow below or click here. It really is very simple to create a Tour; you and your students will be touring around the world in no time!

Have you used Tour Builder (or maybe Google Earth Lit Trips or Walks) before? What did you think? What are some other great ways you could use Tour Builder with your students- please share below in the comments!

Tech To You Later!

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