This a post I wrote for June’s #UKEdchat magazine-I’ve since added a few more resources.
This Meme was posted on Twitter a while ago-
I kind of agreed with it but knew of loads of great ways that I have used Google Earth, Maps and StreetView in my classroom. Maybe people only used it to look at their houses because they weren’t aware of all the great resources out there. In this article I’ll showcase some brilliant resources that will definitely stimulate learning and especially writing in your class.
I teach in the top 2% most deprived areas in Europe, the students have a paucity of imagination because of their lack of experience, missed opportunities to visit places and having very little background of wider reading. They don’t tend to watch the Discovery Channel either!
So it’s with little surprise that they fail to be ignited when the teacher stands in front of them and tells them that they have just climbed the largest mountain in the world (Did we drive up?) and are now standing at the tallest point on earth (I’ve been to the top of Blackpool tower). Could they now describe what they are looking at? (No) Could they write about they’re amazing journey? (Not really) and could they write a detailed description of the top? (No chance).
Why do we as educators make the same mistakes, are we trying to test how badly they could write about something? It’s not the students fault, when the nearest they’ve ever travelled is to the City Centre, they just haven’t the experience or the knowledge, to formulate an accurate picture for their imagination to work. It’s not just those poorer students who suffer from this, for most pupils the top of Mount Everest might as well be an alien planet hundreds of light years away.
That’s the beauty of today’s internet, the World Wide Web should be renamed Wherever, Whatever, Whoever because with the web you can visit places on this earth (and beyond) that most of us will never have a chance to visit in the flesh in our lifetimes.
Who needs imagination when you can actually go there!
After mapping the world (well the places that will let them!) with their StreetView car, Google have now turned their attention to places that their car can’t get to. They called this Google Treks and use a backpack 360 camera to capture these places.
They’ve included some fascinating places-The Great Barrier Reef and the Galapagos Islands Trek gives the viewer the opportunity to venture underwater and really explore aquatic life.
For the Great Barrier Reef, you actually enter the sea from a beach in Google StreetView!
Imagine using this a stimulus for writing about an underwater kingdom or using Finding Nemo as a complimentary learning topic-complete engagement of pupils.
Wanting your students to write factfiles of some of the worlds great wonders-Google has that covered too! Explore The Eifel Tower, The Taj Mahal, the canals of Venice and even the tallest Building on the planet, the Burj Kalifa
Google also have a wonderful ‘World Wonders’ website where you can explore Stonehenge and the banks of the river Seine in Paris, amongst many others.
Google have used Treks to map some of natures great places.
Want to travel up Japan’s Mount Fuji, explore the Grand Canyon in America, walk along the Colorado River or the Amazon Basin-You can!
Want to see the nature in Churchill (Canada’s capital of Polar Bears) or see the Arctic at Iqalut-you can!
Talking of nature and especially animals, there are a number of animal tracking websites that will allow students to look at the movement of animals in real time. Fascinating when teaching about migration or nocturnal animals. You can imagine the students faces when they see just how far an animal travels around when seeing it on a map.
You can see Polar Bears with BearTracker-
You can view the movement of Jaguars and many other species with the WWF wildlife tracker. These animals even have names and I have used this resource to ask the students to write about the day in the life of Naipi the Jaguar.
There are also quite a few Shark trackers and one of the best is Ocearch, where you can see the migration of sharks and it gives plenty of details of each tagged animal.
Google Maps views is a place where people upload their 360 photographs (photos that are scrollable through 360 degrees, giving the viewer a more in depth feel to the place photographed)
You can click on any place pin to access these and there are even a view surprises.
Click on the pin in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and you get a panoramic view of the International Space Station-complete with photo of that astronaut with a moustache!
Panorama photos are great for taking pupils to places that they would never be able to visit. Using the Screencast-O-matic screen recorder website you can create a pretty realistic walk on the moon. Especially when on Panorama.dk they have loads of photos (together with actual sounds from the landings) of every Apollo flight to the moon.
Actually there is a little known trick in Google Earth-by selecting the right hand menu you can change Earth to Moon
You can explore them just like Earth and Google Mars even has real time updates of the Rovers mapping the planet out.
It also has lots of handy information and even a virtual robot assistant!
Any guesses where this photo is from?
Yes-it’s from the highest point above sea level on earth, the top of Mount Everest!
You can have a brilliant explore around using the panorama website and when you link it with Google Treks streetview of Everest base camp it makes writing about the Epic journey of Edmund Hilary all the more realistic!
I going to end this article with a few gems. These websites I have used to fill a little time and to stimulate art in class.
Firstly there’s Geogessr, a genius site where it randomly shows you a Google Streetview image and you have to pinpoint where it is in the world. You get points for getting close to real location and is great fun!
Next is Red Bull Google Street Art view. Red Bull had the genius idea of tagging all the places in the world that you can see Street Art on Google Street View.
Get glimpses of Banksy classics in the proper environments!
Google now have their own Street Art section on their Cultural site.
Then there’s Tate Britain’s Google Maps Mash-up ArtMaps, on these maps you select a location it shows you any artwork that the Tate has in it’s posession that’s linked to that location. Brilliant when researching local history.
Let’s go back to the beginning, sometimes it’s really useful to use Google StreetView to explore where your house is. Especially when there’s two fabulous StreetView image manipulating websites that allows the user to create amazing images.
Streetview StereoScopic turns your house (or Eifel Tower or Stonehenge) into a mini-planet.
Especially useful when asking children to make up alien planets and to describe them.
Or using the Top Trumps Generator at the BigHugeLabs website to write planet factfiles.
There’s Roschmap that mirrors the Streetview image to produce stunning art works.
Finally I’ll share a fabulous resource from Google (only downside being you need to sign in with a Google/Gmail account) called Tour Builder.
Using Google Earth you can add points of interest around the globe, add written descriptions, videos and photographs.The children in my class used it to write written descriptions of their journeys from Home to School, with screenshots from StreetView of interesting landmarks or location stories.
After you have finished it produces a brilliant video stitching all these aspects together-here’s the video I made to support Nelson School in New Zealand and support their effort to connect globally. (#gigatownnsn)
I hope I’ve shared enough for you to see that Google Maps are more than just looking at your own house and that you can see how much potential they have to stimulate and engage writers in the classroom.
Please tweet me at @ideas_factory if you want to ask me anything.Written by Julian S Wood - www.ideasfactory.me/about/"rel="author"