How I Use It
As a former geography teacher and a Google Earth fan I was so excited to discover Tour Builder! I have been using Google Earth in my classroom for four years and over the years have attempted to have students build tours within Earth. This was always a difficult and painful process as Google Earth is not the most student friendly tool. This past year my seventh grade students were creating digital autobiographies and three students wanted to create tours in Google Earth. About one hour in, two students had given up, and only one persisted through to the end. However, this student faced many road blocks along the way including Earth crashing, difficulty formatting pin locations, and images not saving. While it was a great learning experience in terms of persistence, it was not an enjoyable venture. Creating a tour in Google Earth is an extremely challenging feat for students so I was ecstatic when I discovered Tour Builder. Tour Builder takes everything that is complicated about making a Google Earth tour and makes it easy. My students used this tool at the end of the year during our Global Health unit of inquiry to the tell the story of a disease they had been studying (ex. SARS). It allowed them to easily bring their stories to life. In Tour Builder you simply add locations, descriptions, photos and video to create your story on the map. At the end you are able to share your tour with others, similar to Google Drive files. Another option is to download your tour as a KML file so you are able to open it in Google Earth. It will allow you to play your tour automatically directly in Earth. Tour Builder takes a complicated frustrating process for students and makes it extremely user friendly. The options for using Tour Builder are endless, and can be applied to any subject area or unit of study.
Tour Builder is a tool with endless possibilities. It could be used in any subject area and with a wide range of student ages and abilities. It takes everything complicated about creating a tour in Google Earth and makes it simple. It allows you to add locations, images, videos and descriptions in a user friendly way. When choosing locations it also allows you to zoom in (or out) to a specific part of the location. You can also add dates to your location which could be helpful if you were creating a historical timeline. One feature that doesn't exist (which my student wanted) was an ability to have a central location which you return back to. For example: Toronto to Ottawa, back to Toronto, to Vancouver, back to Toronto. It appears to only follow a linear sequence. You can also add multiple photos (up to 25) to a given location or Youtube videos. One feature which could improve Google Earth tours is to make the tool collaborative. I have been asked by many teachers if students can work on the same tour simultaneously, and at this point, this isn't possible. I think adding this would greatly improve the tool. I also think an app version of this tool would be a great option, especially for younger students. The sharing options for Tours are extremely straightforward, and I love the option to download it as a KML file. Here you could also record audio to further enhance your Tour using another tool, while the tour plays on earth. Overall, this is a great tool to bring research, ideas and stories to life!