It takes a special knack to bring history to life from boring textbooks with flat 2-dimensional photographs. In schools, teachers often rely on visual aids and videos to grab the attention of students. Some classes, though, are travelling back in time using Google Earth Voyager, which allows children to explore empires and monuments in 3D.
Since its development in May 2017, classrooms all over the world have started using Google Earth’s Voyager tool to delve into the past.
At Government Higher Primary School, Anthapura, Gubbi taluk, Tumakuru, the technology is being used to teach children about the Vijayanagar empire, which dates back to 1336 AD.
Social science teacher, Chandrakala R., has never seen students so eager for a history lesson. “I used the tool to teach my class 7 students, who were able to experience first-hand the history and culture of the people who lived at the time. We got 3D views of the Virupaksha temple and the Stone Chariot in the Vittala temple complex,” she said.
This feature was developed after India Literacy Project, a non-governmental organisation, approached Google Earth to build interactive content for the Social Sciences component of their Multi-Dimensional Learning Space project that aims to make children explore, experiment, discover and learn in a variety of ways.
The stories developed through this initiative, focus on historical sites, kingdom and rivers, and are aligned with the school curriculum of four States: Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh.
A pilot project has been rolled out in 15 schools across Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
The Indian Literacy Project has also conducted an orientation with 400 teachers. The pilot was for four chapters as part of the class 7 curriculum.
By the next academic year, they plan to reach out to 2,000 schools and 5 lakh children in the four States.
The stories are storyboarded using Google Sheets, which consists of all text and links to maps and other interactive content.
Pramod Sridharamurthy, Secretary, Board of Trustees (India), ILP said the idea was to give students an expansive view of different places and encourage exploration learning in the classroom.
“Many rural children may not get to travel, and may never get to see some of the monuments. All they would normally see are stamp-sized pictures in textbooks. With the Google tools, children can experience things almost as if they were really there,” he said.
Emily Henderson, Google Geo Education Outreach Program Manager, said: “Right now we are looking to see if students are excited about it and if it has helped them get hooked on to the lessons,” she said.
The answer, for now, seems to be ‘yes’. “It’s exciting,” said Renuka Prasad, who took the history lesson with Ms. Chandrakala. “I not only got to see pictures, but also videos of the places we are studying. It almost felt like we were there in that place," he said.