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Google Views

Spinning panoramas mesmerize viewers, play well with other Google apps

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Expert evaluation by Common Sense



Subjects & Skills

Arts, English Language Arts, Science, Social Studies

Price: Free
Platforms: Web

Pros: Imaginative technology enhances great photography: hook kids into topics by taking them “on location.”

Cons: Interfacing with the site can be frustratingly clunky and not deeply educational.

Bottom Line: Use this tool to find winning, wonderful locations, integrate with other Google tools, then return to the meat of your lesson planning.

Show Google Views to your whole group: Hook kids with photo spheres of the Pyramids before diving into Ancient Egypt, or see the “World’s Highest Peaks” (Street View collection) when studying landforms. Kids completing country reports will be able to find a country’s “Highlights”: just steer them toward the Street View collections. ELA teachers: spend a few minutes contextualizing a book’s location or go deeper using Views and Google Maps to chart a character’s journey (think Frederick Douglas in Maryland). Incorporating math (distance, rate, time) requires the map scale only available through Google Maps. Science teachers will appreciate collections like the Colorado River and NASA (among others) that are “Google Street View Treks,” which include robust images and information; click on the blue About this Place button to discover more. Creating photospheres will be interesting for MS/HS photography students. Kids of all ages can join conversations about privacy issue, problem-solving, and engineering.

Google Views showcases user-contributed pictures and photo spheres (360-degree panoramic images) connected to map locations. The homepage has a display carousel above a coordinating map. Google’s Pegman, in the top right, advertises the developer's rich Street View collections, and popular images from users are thumbnailed below. Use the Explore button to view choices or type a destination to search. Though you don’t need to be signed in to view the Views, users must be logged in to upload pictures.

Selecting an image opens it as the main page, with an information panel on the right. A small map orients the viewer. Left and right arrows here move users through pictures in a group. Photo spheres spin automatically when the mouse is over them. Linked together, they're called constellations, and can be moved through like Google Maps Street View. An on-screen prompt, “View on Google Maps,” opens the image in a new window and allows for more detailed exploration.

Spinning, panoramic photo spheres captivate users; mesmerizingly, you are “there.” This is the value of Google Views: Intriguing images can prompt kids to ask questions and invest in content. The user-contribution facet of Views is appealing, but it causes some inconsistencies: The info bar may include facts or phone numbers. Consistently, the best learning opportunities are through Google’s Street View collections. These are Google’s own images, and most include some text to explain the corresponding picture. Extend learning by viewing images in Google Maps, where you can reference a map scale and use Pegman to explore the surroundings.

In general, Google Views works best in tandem with other Google apps. Teachers will realize that many map-and-image searches are best run elsewhere. Want examples of urban sprawl? Send your kids to Google Earth. Need mansions on Long Island? Gatsby readers go to Google Maps Street View. Need visuals on meandering rivers? This is one for Google Images. Overall, use Google Views as a starting point for exploration, then use other tools to take the journey further.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating

Inspiring, 360-degree photo spheres from amazing locations immerse kids of all ages. New images and ideas pique interest, though this can wane with clunky navigation and missing captions.


Classroom walls vanish as kids experience being in new places, and ever-present maps help provide context. Connected, vetted information could make this even better: Tags and brief mouse-overs could help make interesting views more robust.


Users familiar with Google Maps will find lots of overlap; novices can find a helpful orientation video through Street View. Still, with no specific tutorial and little help, the interface can be challenging.

Common Sense reviewer

Community Rating

Collection of amazing photo spheres

I highly value the use of great photographs to help students understand the diversity of geography. The current collections are very limited. I was glad to read that this resource is going to become part of Google Maps.

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