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Revisit Google Tour Builder: The forgotten little brother of all the map tools

It’s no secret that History Tech loves the maps. I still get a bit giddy whenever a new National Geographic mag shows up with a historical map insert. Cause . . . maps are cool.

So it’s not a surprise that I’m also in love with all things Google map related. There’s the basic Google Maps and Maps app. You’ve got both the original, downloadable – and by far the best – version of Google Earth and the new version of Google Earth they created so it would play nice with Chromebooks. You’ve got the relatively new Google My Maps. You’ve got the Street View and Expeditions apps. And there’s hundreds of third party tools using Google Map API code that do all sorts of fun things.

And then there’s the often forgotten little brother of the Google Map world – Google Tour Builder. Tour Builder came out about 

four years ago as a beta tool originally created to give veterans a way to record all the places that military service had taken them and to preserve their stories and memories. But it turned out to be a useful tool for just about anyone with a story to tell, so they made it available to all of us. The Google folks say it’s a 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.”

And the cool thing is that Tour Builder is also useful for social studies teachers and students. How about using Tour Builder to create tours of specific historical events, significant places, biographies, or geographic features? Maybe a cause and effect timeline? Or a collaborative then and now compare and contrast activity?

Maybe add links to primary sources connected to specific places. Maybe embed photos and videos that students have to analyze. Or that are part of Breakout Edu digital boxes. The point is that Tour Builder can be used as a teaching, assessment, or learning tool.

Get an idea of what a basic tour looks like by browsing through this quick Revolutionary War battlefield tour.

I talked about Tour Builder when it first came out but I meet lots of folks who’ve never heard of it. So I want to make sure that if you’re one of those, well . . . that you do know about it and can add it to your tool kit.

To create a tour, head over to the Tour Builder site and log-in to your Google account.

(The FAQs mention that tours created with Tour Builder “can be accessed using the Google Earth App, which is available for Android, iPhone/iPad, and Linux.”)

Once you’re logged in, it’s pretty simple. Hit Create a Tour and get started.

Google created three different types of storylines that you start with – Story, Hub, and Disabled. To select your story type, go to the Tour Introduction panel – the first square in your tour navigation. The drop-down default is “Story”, which will draw lines between each placemark in your story creating a linear storyline. The next option is “Hub”, which can be used to create a central placemark with lines spiraling out and to surrounding placemarks. The last option is “Disabled”, which removes the lines between placemarks entirely for stories that are not tied to a particular timeline.

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, descriptions, links, 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. Need a few more specifics? Check out this Tour Builder tutorial page.

Find more tour examples at the Tour Builder gallery. Cause you can never have enough maps.

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Glenn is a curriculum and tech integration specialist, speaker, and blogger with a passion for technology and social studies. He delivers engaging professional learning across the country with a focus on consulting, presentations, and keynotes. Find out more about Glenn and how you might learn together by going to his Speaking and Consulting page.

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