Google Tour Creator for English Classrooms
6/15/21 Update: Click here to see Google's updates in their VR space.
A couple years ago I was asked if I wanted to bring my 6th grade English class to do an augmented reality demo. I immediately jumped at the opportunity, and my students had a blast. However, during the demonstration a student came up and asked me, “Mrs. Pass, this is fun and all, but what does this have to do with English?”
For me, everything “has to do” with English. That’s one of the best parts about being an English teacher! You cannot isolate it from any other discipline. All subjects rely on the skills of reading, writing, and communication; so as an English teacher it is easy to become a bridge between different subjects and even technologies.
Interdisciplinary learning is slowly gaining popularity in secondary education, but until it is common practice I will continue to patiently defend my choices for bringing my English class to an augmented reality demonstration of a volcano explosion (back in the classroom we did a questioning session, research practice, and short presentations based on what had sparked our curiosity during the AR to tie it back to our English standards).
This is all to say, that whenever I see a cool new tool or technology, I try to figure out a way to integrate it into my English curriculum.
Tour Creator by Google is the most recent example of such.
Tour Creator allows users to create their own geographic tours using 360 or panoramic images from Google Street View (or your own using the Google Cardboard App), that can be viewed on a computer OR as virtual reality through Google Expeditions.
It comes with some awesome, extra educational features including the ability to add text, audio, and additional pictures to accompany your “scene.”
The most obvious application for this is in geography, history, and social studies classes; but there is plenty I would like to do with Tour Creator as an English teacher (you can't tell stories without setting afterall).
1. Discover Locations from Stories or Novels
The first thing that came to mind was Sherlock Holmes. Living in London, I’ve found a renewed passion for the detective mysteries and they are so closely tied to place.
Using Tour Creator I mapped out the first few places Holmes and Watson traveled to on their adventures. The images are of modern day England (as they are taken from Google Street View), but I was able to overlay images that represent what those places might have looked like in the 1900s.
I also used the text box to include the titles of the stories from each respective location, but if I were to do a full assignment, I would probably ask my students to find a quote from the text that describes or mentions the place, and include it in the text box or record it as audio.
2. Create Stories Based on Place
For students who always feel stuck when starting to write a new story, use Tour Creator to spark new ideas.
Have students create four scenes within tour creator, each capturing a different place (you could set a rule here that each place needs to be within the same city, if you think your students need that structure).
Either trade with a classmate, or using their own, ask your students to write a quick story in four parts. Each part needs to take place in one of the scenes provided, and the story should mention and use elements of what they see in the scene (turn people into characters, mention specific businesses in the background, or have your character use an object from the image).
They could either write their stories in the text box provided or even narrate their stories as audio within Tour Creator to be played aloud.
Use Tour Creator for a Presentation of Work
You could have students take a piece of already written work and find scenes that represent sections of that story or article.
They could then either copy/paste their writing into the text box or narrate their stories as audio to be played aloud.
Do a “Mystery Place, Description Race”
Have you heard of “Mystery Skype?” Where you video chat with students from another class and ask them yes or no questions to figure out where in the world they are? Well, I imagine you could do something like that with tour creator.
The teacher would pick random locations in the world to add as the scenes, but wouldn’t include the name of the locations. Then, in pairs the students would take turns looking at the scene (preferably in VR as a Google Expedition) and describe what they see to their partner. The partner could use their Chromebook (or BYO device) to look up clues to try and figure out where that place is.
At the end of the activity, the teacher would reveal the places and the students could discuss how they used descriptive language and their research skills to try and figure it out.