Updated: Jul 17, 2020
As lockdown restrictions in many places ease, some people now have some freedom to go outdoors. Restrictions will be around for a while to come though and it is wise to consider the effects such sudden and prolonged changes can have on our children. I believe that digital storytelling can help us with this as well as supporting all kinds of learning at home.
Digital storytelling just means using digital tools to tell a story, whether that’s your story or the story of someone or something else. Digital stories have a narrative and a structure. They can take various forms including presentations, films, video clips, podcasts, animations and songs. Even a single image can tell a story if you let it.
Google Earth is a 3D image of planet Earth made up of satellite images. You can use it in a web browser or download the program on most computers, mobile devices or tablets. It’s free, easy to access and suitable for use by any age.
Google Earth can be a powerful digital storytelling tool that can support the learning and development of children at home, either through their own use or through the experience a parent can provide with it.
Go back to school virtually
Use Google Earth to show your child their school. You could even navigate along the streets that would normally take you there whilst engaging in discussion about how your school routine used to be. Then gently remind children why they aren’t at school but that they will soon go back and everything will go back to normal. Talking through how your child feels about not being at school as a story can help them to address their feelings and reduce the negative effects of the upheaval they have experienced. (The Whole-Brain Child, 2011)
Take a virtual tour of your home town
Visit your supermarket, your school, your grandparents house, your local park - all the places you haven’t been able to get to for a while. Your child will be fascinated when they see the places they know and they’ll soon be coming up with other familiar places they want to drop in on. Again, you can talk to your child about why they haven’t been to these places for a while and reassure them that everything will be going back to normal soon.
Once upon a time, far, far away...
Your child could visit the setting or their favourite movie of their favourite character’s home. Tour Samoa if they love Moana, Kenya or Tanzania for Lion King fans, the lakeside village of Hallstat in Austria for a Frozen-esque setting and the Taj Mahal to see the sultan’s palace from Aladdin. Find loads more fairytale places to check out in the Guided Tours section of the search on Google Earth.
Put learning into context
If your child is learning a new language, you could take a virtual trip to a country where it is spoken. Children have access to visit historic sites, the homes of historic figures and battlegrounds, museums, geographical landmarks and more. Many famous places have knowledge cards that include pictures, text and videos with more information about the place.
How sports fans can use Google Earth
Keen sports fans might want to pay a visit to their team’s grounds. You could explain to your child how their favourite players are also stuck at home just like them and there probably isn’t even anybody at the stadium right now. Your child might be interested to imagine that their team's star player might be feeling just as cooped up or frustrated as they are. Again, always emphasise that it's OK to feel this way and that things will go back to normal eventually.
See the world’s most iconic sights in 3D
Use the search bar to type in a specific place you’d like to visit, a city you’d like to explore or to find premade Guided Tours. Kids could even make some pretend binoculars and get a 'closer look' at the sights or pretend to be a tourist and take photos of eachother in front of the landmark!
Let your child create their own Google Earth project
Children can create their own projects by clicking on the Menu icon (three horizontal lines), 'Projects' and then ‘New Project’. They can then add places to their project by searching or adding their own pins to locations that they want to include. Creating digital stories on Google Earth will require planning, decision making and creativity from children as well as developing their technological skills. Projects can be saved and presented as well as shared with friends or teachers via email. Google Earth's video below shows exactly how anyone can create and share on Google Earth.
Get Lucky in Google Earth
If you can't decide use the square icon with the dots inside to be taken to a random destination.
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I'd love to hear how your children have been using Google Earth! I am also happy to answer questions about using Google Earth for home learning or any other home learning related queries. Contact me here :)