With support from the Digital Learning team and the Student Digital Ambassadors, I recently trialed Google Tour Creator with a group of Level 1 ESOL students. The topic I chose for the session was “Where I Grew Up” or “My Home Town”, so we began with a revision session on the language used to describe routines and habits in the present (usually) and in the past (used to/would). I then demonstrated a Google Tour I had created about where I grew up, so that students could see what we were hoping to achieve.
Tour Creator requires a Google account and password: of course, there were the usual forgotten password sagas which took some time to resolve and others had to create new accounts. This process took some time, but if we were to use Tour Creator more often, it would obviously be more streamlined. Students needed their smartphones with them, so that they could retrieve forgotten passwords.
We then began to create our tours. For the front page of the tour, you search for a static image in Google Images, then save it and upload this image. Students were very excited about finding images of their home towns but sometimes there were drawbacks. The image must be a certain size and photos from remote areas or from some countries (parts of India, Sudan, Somalia, Congo) were not the required size and could not be uploaded, so some students had to switch to Plan B, e.g. “My Nearest Big Town”; or “The Town Where I Used to Live”.
Once you have the Cover photo, you give it a title and then you are ready to create your Scenes for the tour. The tour window is launched and students search for their chosen location in Google Maps and a 360 degree image appears on the right. Students set a Starting View and give each scene a title and a brief description. They can yreate Points of Interest by placing an ‘i’ in a specific location, adding details, or uploading a static photo, e.g. a coffee cup to denote a good café or, if available, a view of the shop façade or a particular building. Several points of interest can be included in each scene.
Our group created about 4 scenes each, before going on to Publish their tour. There were tours of Tangier, Miyaneh (Azerbaijan), Lidio (Italy), Bogota (Colombia) and many more. Once published, the tour can be viewed ‘live’ (the scenes rotate as you enter the tour, you can click on the ‘eyes’ for additional pictures or information and you can Share it). By clicking on the Share button, students are able to copy the link and email it to friends or teachers or post it on social media.
For the most advanced, the final stage is to view the tours on the virtual reality headsets. By opening Tour Creator on their mobile phones, students were able to have the full 3D experience. They had to remember to click the goggles icon on their screen and then insert their phones into the headsets. Unfortunately, we could not work out how to move from one scene to the next without removing the headset and clicking on the phone but students loved it anyway.
All the learners seemed really engaged in this taster session. More digitally literate students supported others. However, one learner felt there was not enough English language input. Therefore, in future sessions, I would ensure students prepared the written details for the descriptions and points of interest before adding these to the tour.