Virtual Tours with Google Tour Creator
Post in News by AdamHerman on 26th November 2019
Virtual reality (VR) technology has the potential to revolutionize teaching. With access to VR equipment, teachers and students can go beyond the physical confines of the classroom and immerse themselves in a boundless array of environments. Google has taken a big step in making this more attainable with the Google Tour Creator, which utilizes Google Street View and other technologies to allow creators to build virtual environments with relative ease. Teachers can create tours using selected locations, or a pre-made template, to make lessons that would be meaningful in almost any subject area.
Using Google Tour Creator
When teachers first go to the website, they have the option of creating a new tour or selecting a template. Any tours that are created or templates used are saved automatically to this page. In the template gallery teachers can find tours of various famous landmarks, including Petra, the Great Wall of China, and the Colosseum. Also available are 3D environments that model various scientific concepts, such as exothermic reactions, human musculature, and virus reproduction. These templates include audio explaining various concepts as students interact with the content.
Create a new tour
To create a tour, select “New Tour.” The site will then bring up Google Street View, from which the user can find a landmark that they can use to start their tour. As a native of Bergen County, North Jersey, I decided to create a tour showcasing a staple of elementary school field trips: the Von Steuben House in Hackensack. Von Steuben was a Prussian General who trained the Continental Army at Valley Forge, which is seen as a key turning point in the war.
Adding points of interest
For my tour, I found a street view image of the house. From here I was able to insert “points of interest” which include images and text that give additional information on the selected point. The information can also be overlaid with recorded music or audio, which contribute to differentiation and an immersive experience. At this point I wanted to expand on my tour by having the viewer go to Valley Forge. To do this, after I completed this part of the tour, I selected “Add Scene” at the bottom of the screen and created a new scene at the Valley Forge Visitor Center, which contains more information and potential points of interest.
Publish to Poly
When the tour is done, I published to Google Poly, which is the 3D platform for Google. The tour can be set as public or only accessible through a shareable link. If I were still teaching, I would share this link to Google Classroom or another platform for my students to access and interact with.
The sky is the limit
There is immense potential for this resource in the classroom. Teachers can take their students on immersive tours anywhere in the world. A teacher reviewing the Paris Commune could have students tour the Hotel de Ville, the lavish Paris city hall that was burnt down during the conflict, and discuss how wealth inequality and revolution in many ways defined France from the late 1700s all the way through the 1960s. An English teacher talking about the Odyssey can have students tour the ruins of Pompeii and discuss life in the ancient world. Teachers can also put the onus of creation on the students, and have them create tours to show their content knowledge in a unique and engaging way. It should also be noted that 3D goggles are not needed to use this site, as tours can be accessed from any device that allows for 3D viewing.
More resources to help
For more ideas on how Google Tour Creator can be used, I would highly recommend our “Intro to Digital Storytelling” course on OTIS for educators. You can also access my previous piece on Google Arts and Culture for some ways to bring virtual and augmented reality into the classroom. If you feel like AR and VR can enhance your classroom and want to find a great resource to get started, I would highly recommend Merge, which comes with several pre-made resources for STEM and other content areas.