As a former Social Studies teacher, I believe most stories can be told with maps. That’s why I’m such a fan of Google’s mapping and geography tools. Ever since it debuted in May 2018, Google Tour Creator has been my favorite of these tools. What a great storytelling tool for students and teachers:
Speaking of storytelling, as I think about Tour Creator’s uses for the classroom, it occurs to me that it can help students visualize settings in novels.
Growing up on Long Island, it was easy for me to visualize the setting in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The novel takes place primarily on the island and in New York City. Even though most native New Yorkers consider the New York metropolitan area the center of the universe, many students who read The Great Gatsby will struggle with visualizing setting. Additionally, the narrator, Nick Carraway, references events in places beyond the New York metropolitan area.
What if Tour Creator can help students visualize setting in novels such as The Great Gatsby? Determined to find out, I re-read the novel and put Tour Creator to the test. So like Gatsby leading an awestruck Daisy through his mansion, let me show you the tour and share lessons learned about using Google Tour Creator.
- The Great Gatsby Google Poly Tour by Tom Mullaney Tours do not embed in WordPress. They embed in Google Sites. Have a look at my Frederick Douglass digital breakout for an example.
Image Overlays in Points of Interest
Using images overlays in points of interest adds to the story. Great sources for copyright-friendly images include the Wikimedia Commons and Unsplash. Additionally, I used two Google tools to add geography to the tour. Tour Creator is great for its 360° Street View imagery but the viewer has no idea where they are. I added a sense of location by using map images as image overlays in points of interest. First, I created a Google My Map of Gatsby locations. Then I screen captured map images and annotated them using Chrome Canvas. Doing this kept the image quality high.
For the ink color, I used the Colorzilla Google Chrome extension to grab the blue color from this Great Gatsby cover:
Images with transparent backgrounds are especially fun. Have a look at the Yale University scene for an example.
Sound in Points of Interest
Points of interest can also have sound. I used Online Voice Recorder to quickly record narration for points of interest and scene descriptions. Additionally, users can add ambient music to scenes. I used Bensound to find copyright-friendly music and added it to the Louisville and Queensboro Bridge scenes.
Easy to Make Changes
What if you have typed a point of interest, added an image to it, and added narration only to realize the image is incorrect? Fortunately, if you delete the image, the rest of the point of interest remains intact. It is so easy to swap image overlays in points of interest. Simply click the remove image icon:
Amazingly, this is also true of the Google Street View scene itself. You can change the Street View image and the points of interest remain intact. Try it by hovering over the upper-right corner in the scene editor. Then click “Change.”
Google Street View – Time of Year
Users have no way of knowing what time of year the Google Street View car last photographed an area. I encountered this with my East Egg scene. Google Street View for that part of Long Island is from winter, unlike The Great Gatsby which takes place in summer. That is appropriate considering Tom and Daisy’s coldness towards those whose lives they destroy.
Website Embed and/or Expedition
Additionally, teachers can lead and students can view Tour Creator tours in Google Expeditions. A teacher leading the Gatsby tour can pick and choose which scenes to show. Simply click “Like” in a tour to add it to your Google Expeditions library.
As Tour Creator continues to improve, I have two wishes for its future:
- The ability to add animated GIFs as image overlays in points of interest. How cool would that be?
- The ability to add videos to points of interest. There are already Google Expeditions that have video this way. That would be a great feature for Tour Creator as well.
Does this post have you curious about creating your own tour? Navigate to Tour Creator and play around. Let me know if you have any questions by commenting below or tweeting me, @TomEMullaney. Thanks for reading.