Google Earth in the English Classroom

I’ve recently been trawling through some of my delicious bookmarks, rediscovering some of the blog posts I thought so incredible when I first read them. Doing so reminded me that the world is such a small place now and the scope for professional sharing in education is a microcosm and a world of unbelievable possibilities.

I came across these posts about using Google Earth in school and a couple of ideas started flashing through my head. As a teacher of English, surely there are huge possibilities for using this in my classroom.

What I started to devise was a Literary Tour of the world. Google Lit Trips are available and it is a great place to find inspiration, but there are tools in Google Earth which allow you to personalise your trips, even allowing your learners to make their own.

My senior class had been studying ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ so we zoned in on Holden Caulfield’s trip through Central Park. We followed his journey, ending up at the carrousel after a trip to the Lake to see the ducks and the Natural History Museum in search of his sister, Phoebe. We discovered exactly how far he must have walked down Central Park West to get to the Carrousel for the final, heart-breaking epiphany.

What else might he have seen along the way? How about some imaginative writing, describing other episodes in Holden’s day, based on scenes close by?  We flew into Central Park to have a look. If nothing else, it allows learners to see that these are real places, with real pasts and presents. We can put ourselves into the minds of the characters in Literature to see what they saw and think about how they might have reacted.

But it is the ‘record a tour’ function with which I have been dabbling. I started playing about with the possibilities of making ‘Macbeth’ seem a lot more real to some of my more disengaged students. This is what I came up with.

It’s not perfect, it’s just a beginning but I can see that for certain classes that I teach, where, let’s say, a four hundred year old play might not be the reason they rush into school, this could begin to hook them in. For other Secondary teachers there could be so many possibilities. Why not fly into Tahria Square to or go to the Louvre or travel along the Nile.

I’m not claiming to be breaking new ground here. But it seems to me that the possibilities for engagement are endless. Google Earth provides a fascinating real life guide to setting and could inspire some amazing real life writing.

However, as I said, this is just a test a the moment. I’m hoping to embed more of this into lessons for next year. Any thoughts?

5 thoughts on “Google Earth in the English Classroom

  1. I really like this idea. I use Google earth a lot to stalk out travelling destinations for myself and have wondered how to use it and whether or not there’s a point. I think there are ways you can create detailed maps adding in shops/parks/key points so perhaps also useful for creative writing too? Also (and this is just for fun) you can use flight simulators to fly around the planet! You have to press Ctrl + Alt + A while using Google Earth to access the flight simulators but someone showed me once and it was a lot of fun! May be useful to show time and distance between locations (she says…trying to think of reasons why you’d even need to do this in class!). Great food for thought. Thanks for reminding us of a great tool.

  2. Hi,
    This is Jerome Burg, founder of Google Lit Trips. Came across your blog today and wanted to thank you for your interest in the project. Also thought that if you had not yet stumbled across it, you might find this useful.

    Catcher is one of my favorites, and not just because I share my first name with J.D. Salinger. I’ve wanted to find time to work on a Lit Trip for the book and would love to hear more about your experience with your students in this regard.

    If you’re interested in sharing any feedback, please feel free to write me at:

    And by the way, I was particularly interested in your concept of having the students include related imaginative writings.


    • Hi Jerome
      First of all please accept my apologies for the delay in replying. I have just returned to school after the holidays and things are hectic to say the least.
      Thanks so much for your kind words. I have been fascinated by the potential of Google Earth in the classroom for some time but only recently begun to do anything about it. What interests me is the potential for students to become more independent in their study of Literature and my project proved to me that the possibilities are endless.
      Thanks for the link. I had not seen that but will spend time over it. Very helpful.
      This year I hope to extend use of Google Earth in the Classroom and will let you know how it goes,
      Thanks again and have a great day,

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