Google Street View and the Second Language Classroom

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I thought I would discuss the use of Google Street View in the ESL classroom. This is something that I have used a few times and had some success with. Essentially as the name suggests you are able to type a post code or place into Street View and it will take you to that place, which has been photographed and appears on the site. I’m  sure most of us are familiar with the concept. After all who hasn’t entered their own house address just for fun? But beyond that what are it’s uses if any in the classroom?

I started to use it last summer when I was teaching teenagers in an ESL summer school. Each class had an interactive board and having been inspired by a post on Busy Teacher I decided to give it a try with my Elementary class.

Each afternoon my learners were involved in sight seeing and the following day we we discuss as part of the class what they had seen. I decided this would be a good opportunity to involve Street View. I entered the information of the attraction they had visited the previous day, it appeared on the screen and  started a discussion. I used Socratic questioning to build questions, initially they centered around describing what they saw, what they could see on the screen, how would they describe parts of a building etc. using suitable vocabulary. The learners seemed to enjoy it and so I decided to use it further.

We then started to move onto giving directions,  again increasing vocabulary and making comparisons between two tourist attractions. This proved successful when we were studying comparatives and superlatives. I also found it helpful for learners when they were discussing differences. If they had visited two museums we could bring them both up and talk about what was different about them. For my elementary class this was a really fun way of getting them to talk. Obviously, this could be developed for higher classes. Street view allows you to visit both current and ancient sights. This could be useful for simple grammar explanations. Also for higher levels it may be used to inform research about a topic or as part of a presentation.

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Here is one of the Churches we visited during the summer. My elementary class described it, used past tense to discuss what had happened to it in the past and were able to compare it to more modern Churches we visited. They were also able with the help of the map to give directions from this location back to the school!

A further use of the technology is through story telling. Learners can develop a story or guide about somewhere they have visited (Lee, 2014).

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This is a resource which I found really useful and easy to use. Here is a link to the Street View gallery, which enables your learners to go anywhere in the world without ever leaving your classroom.

https://www.google.com/streetview/

Reference

Lee, L. (2014). Digital News Stories: Building Language Learners’ Content Knowledge and Speaking Skills. Foreign Language Annals, Vol. 47, (2), 338–356

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1 thought on “Google Street View and the Second Language Classroom”

  1. I often found students very keen to see places on Google Street View. When introducing myself to a new class, I usually use Street View to show around my hometown and it’s always received with fascination – maybe more the application than the town itself! However, I haven’t used it in the ways you’ve mentioned but would be interested to do so in future; some nice and creative ideas there!

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