How I Use It
This product has two uses: Teacher driven to teach a lesson and student driven as a PBL.
As a teacher, there are already pre-made Google Treks that you can use and be up and running in a matter of minutes. Since these treks are teacher developed, quality varies from trek to trek. Creating a trek for your class takes more time, but you can create and edit your treks to work with your students. Currently the tutorial for Treks is based on last years version of Google Maps. I was at a training with Dr. Christie in late May, and she is revising the tutorials to reflect the current Google Maps environment.If you watch the tutorial and understand the intent, it is pretty easy to figure out what to do. The great thing about using this in the classroom is that pre-created treks (by you or another teacher) can really work with any age level. Even kindergarten students would be capable of completing a simple trek.
The most exciting aspect of this is the potential for PBL in the classroom. Teach the students how to create a Google Trek and then let them go! High school biology? Have students create a Google Trek about the spread of Ebola. Math? Create a Google Trek that shows all the wonders of the world and how to calculate vital information (Volume of the Grand Canyon, surface area of the exterior of the Great Pyramids, amount of force needed to lift an Easter Isle head into place). The point is, the possibilities are endless! The learning is 100% project based, students get to be creative, and their is cross-curricular learning. Every students will be learning geography, technology, and writing, regardless of the subject area they are working in. If they are taking pictures they find and editing them or adding text, now you have crossed into digital media/art. Because this requires a little higher level of technical skill, I don't think I would try this with primary grade students, unless it was in a very guided practice. Fourth grade students and up should be able to complete projects using this tool very easily. And they usually understand the technology better than we do!
I believe this is a great tool. As with any pre-made material you find online, the existing treks will vary in quality and usability.
The potential for creating your own lessons or having students create projects is only limited by your imagination. This tool allows us to encourage students to be creative and develop critical thinking tools by developing their own treks. It meets the need for real, usable PBL tools that encourage authentic learning. Google Treks also allows students to share their work with world!