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Tip of the Week: Google Earth Tour Builder

Okay. Seriously.

Google is freaking me out. It’s got the Search thing going. Google Drive. Map. Apps for Educators. I heard something once about being able to use Google to search for smells.

And now I’m pretty sure it can read minds.

Last week, a group of teachers and I were sitting around talking about Google Lit Trips. There was some great conversation about how Google Earth is an awesome tool for instruction and for student product development. But one of the concerns mentioned by teachers was the learning curve for both themselves and students.

Wouldn’t it be nice, a teacher asked

if Google would just simplify the process and put something online? Something drag and drop?

Yup. You guessed it. This last Monday, Google released a beta version of something they’re calling Tour Builder. It doesn’t let you create a full-fledged Google Earth tour with all the bells and whistles but it is a very quick and easy way for you and your students to develop a pretty sweet product.

The Google folks say that the tool is a new way to “show people  places you’ve visited and the experiences you had along the way. It lets you pick the locations right on the map, add in photos, text, and video, and then share your creation.” But for history and social studies teachers? How about tours of specific events, significant places, biographies, or geographic features?

To create a tour, you’ll need to log-in to your Google account. To view finished products, you’ll need the Google Earth browser plugin.

(The FAQs mention that the inability of mobile browsers to use this plugin means no viewing on devices such as iPads or other tablets, etc. It goes on to say that tours created with Tour Builder “can be accessed using the Google Earth App, which is available for Android, iPhone/iPad, and Linux.” Maybe it just that I’m not very bright, but . . . I couldn’t figure out how to get that to happen. Anybody out there having those sorts of Google Ninja skills, post us some instructions in the comments.)

Once you’re logged in, it’s pretty simple. Add a title, an introduction paragraph or two, a cover photo and you’re off to the races. Then add as many locations to your tour as you want – adding photos and / or videos, description, dates, and historical imagery to each location.

tour builder 2

I especially like the easy add photos and videos screen. Drag and drop or do a Google search right there.

tour builder 3

Then just save and share. You’ll need to make your tour public if you want to share it with others without requiring that they sign in with Google. You can make tours private if you want – but those who you invite will need to sign in with their Google accounts. I’ll let you decide which works best for you and your kids.

Need an example? I spent about 15 minutes putting together a very quick, five Civil War battle tour. I grabbed some images, a few Youtube videos, and pasted text from National Park Service sites into my locations. You and your kids could easily spend two or three days doing research, creating storyboards, and developing arguments before heading to Tour Builder.

tour builder 1

This seems like a perfect example of the Communicate element of my C4 Framework. Kids Collect information about a problem, Collaborate together to Create a solution to that problem, and then use Tour Builder to Communicate that solution to others.

Mr. Reisler from the  iPaddiction site has posted a very useful video tutorial on Youtube – perfect for you to get started and a great way to scaffold the process for your students.

Have fun!

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Matt Lyons #

    I created some tours to show students how to figure out how humans interact with their environment for use in middle school geography classes. Take a look. Let me know what you think.

    March 5, 2014
    • glennw #


      Cool beans! I like your questions – and your tour is helping me see more and more ways to use the tool. Thanks for sharing!


      March 5, 2014
  2. I just created one for my kids here to try as part of what we are learning relative to culture and globalization. I spent about a day trying to figure out how to get around the plugin issue for an iPad with no luck.

    Not sure if I have to time to use this as a project but I think it would be a great activity if you have the access to technology and time.

    October 29, 2014
    • glennw #


      Yeah. Not designed to be created using a mobile device (though the completed project can be viewed on an iPad). Depending on the access to tech, students usually do very when creating these.

      I’m loving your chicken example!


      October 29, 2014
  3. Narralakes #

    Hi, I tried viewing this on an iPad, but cannot get it to work, is there a solution? thanks

    December 31, 2014
    • glennw #

      Google Tour Builder no longer works on mobile devices.

      I wish it did!


      January 4, 2015

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