Google Earth's creation tools help students tell stories with maps

(Earth creation tools / Google Earth)

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With the goal of providing students with a new way to engage with learning through storytelling, Google Earth has unveiled a new set of new tools that enable maps to be customized and organized into visual narratives.

“I think that it’s helpful that the students are creating something so instead of being passive learners they are creating knowledge,” said Josh Williams, a high school social studies teacher in Austin, Texas.

Williams said he used Google’s new mapping tool, which was released last week, with his students so they could create visual representations of what they are learning in the classroom. The tool gives the students kind of the ability to explore, create and share,” Williams told StateScoop. “It is a huge advantage compared to just watching a YouTube video or something like that.”

With the new tools in Google Earth, students can affix place markers, lines and shapes over a map template, and then attach custom text, images and videos to those locations. Students can also organize multiple maps or Google Earth camera shots into a narrative that can be shared and presented in class.

Students in Williams’ class used the new tool to demonstrate their understanding of different human migration concepts. He said his students built their own story maps that showed different types of movement, including where people travel in their daily routines, and more permanent movement patterns, like relocating to a new city.

Williams said that in his district, using tools like slideshow presentations to visually demonstrate a student’s understanding of learned concepts is not a new idea.

“But the spatial component that Google Earth adds is unique,” he said.

Williams also pointed out that the mapping tool is easy to use and quick to learn.

“The technology didn’t get in the way. It enhanced the experience,” he said. “It makes it really easy for anyone to jump in and experience this storytelling, which I love.”

Google’s creation tools are now available in Google Earth on web, and projects can be viewed on mobile and tablet devices through the Google Earth app.

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