One of my favorite tools to show teachers Google Maps. One of the main reasons is that many have seen or used the application, but most have not considered how to apply it in the classroom. Google has invested and supported development for both augmented and virtual reality into one of their flagship products, Google Maps. This feature is called Street View was created by deploying hundreds of cars onto our road system to document both GPS locations and what you would see at those places. Many people do not even know this feature exists in the Google Maps software.
Some educators are familiar with the Street View tool that gives people the ability to change to a Street View perspective to create a field of vision based on the images captured by the Google car cameras. The unfamiliar part for many is the ability to use your mobile device and switch to a virtual reality view by touching on the compass icon in the corner of the screen or app. This places your device into virtual reality mode. From there you can actually simulate looking around a location. When you hold your phone up, as if you are preparing to take a picture, you will find that as you move the phone to the right, left or up and down, the images on the screen react. The images change in such a way that makes you feel like you are actually standing in the location you’ve entered.
This particular application of the virtual reality feature in Google maps on the classroom is a rather interesting proposition. The possibility of having students visit locations they have studied in class and actually explore the space is both interesting and attractive. This is further amplified by Google’s commitment to making the worlds information more accessible. To meet their goals Google has elected to bring their camera systems into a number of locations that might be inaccessible to most students.
For example, if you Google the Palace of Versailles you will find that you can actually walk around in the palace virtually to explore and discover the structure and artwork contained within. (see video below) This is a fantastic way to encourage student agency. The fact that this technology will assist both teachers and students, and can be used to offer virtual field trips is a great way to use Google Maps.