Using Google Maps, Earth and Street View to Enhance Inquiry-Based Learning

Area(s) of Focus: technology
Division(s): Primary, Junior
Level(s): Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 6

How can Google Maps, Earth, Street View and VR help enhance inquiry-based learning across the curriculum?

  • Teachers will work in collaboration to learn about features of Google Maps, Earth and Street View that can be used to enhance learning in social studies, math, science, language and the arts
  • They will plan and carry out an integrated unit of study that can be explored at every grade level on the following question: “How does where you live affect how you live?” in which the digital tools explored play an important role

Team Members

  • Carmen Bowles

    Ottawa Catholic School Board

  • Gracita Fils

    Ottawa Catholic School Board

  • Greg Lee

    Ottawa Catholic School Board

  • Diana Eden

    Ottawa Catholic School Board

Professional Learning Goals

  • Learned about the different tools and features in Google Maps, MyMaps, Earth and Street View, and how they can be leveraged to feed inquiry across the curriculum
  • Learned how virtual reality apps such as Google Street View and Google Expeditions can enhance student engagement and learning
  • Worked in collaboration to design learning activities centred on a common line of guided inquiry, integrating the new technologies
  • Reflected on successes and challenges, and set new learning goals (e.g., learn more about Google VR, especially how to start creating content)

Activities and Resources

  • Invited an IT expert from the school board to provide us with a workshop on the tools
  • Collaboratively brainstormed possible pedagogical applications for different subject areas
  • Co-constructed learning activities to be tested in our classrooms
  • Blended our classes for activities so we could co-teach, observe students and discuss
  • Met to debrief and plan next steps for our learning

Unexpected Challenges

When we decided to buy refurbished phones for Google VR, we had to research which ones have the right screen size, accelerometer, gyroscope and enough memory to handle Google VR apps.

It was very difficult for us to find reliable information and suppliers of affordable devices. We spent too many hours on this step, but as Google VR in education gains in popularity, more sites are sharing information and experiences.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

  • Students’ interest and engagement spiked when using these tools for inquiry. They were excited to explore and interact with maps, the globe, 360° images and videos. They were very immersed in the activities.
  • Exploring subject content (e.g., students comparing how far and how long they travel to come to school in math) was much more authentic and engaging when students were working with information collected with tools like Google Maps
  • Students were constantly generating new questions as they explored the world and this fuelled personal lines of inquiry
  • Once students became more familiar with the tools and their features, they began to use them spontaneously in different contexts. These types of tools empower students to explore the world and find answers to their questions with increasing independence.


  • We created a Google Site to document our journey, and we shared our project with the staff of our school at a staff meeting
  • Please visit our website here:
  • We made ourselves and our older students available to go into classes and assist teachers as they began integrating these tools

Project Evaluation

This project was a huge success because we surpassed our learning goals and we have set new ones to extend our learning beyond this project (e.g., How can we get students to create Google VR content to share their learning?). We learned a lot from our expert, more from one another, and even more from the students as we watched them work and learn.

In the future, we need to curate resources to help solve technical issues more quickly so that we can be freed up to explore pedagogical applications of new technologies.

Resources Used

“Google GEO tools – Gearing Up with Google Maps”

Workshop provided by Rob Long and Bill Corcoran, OCSB LT Department

“Virtual Reality in the Classroom”

Workshop provided by Erin Doak, OCSB teacher

Jaime Donally’s Symbaloo of curated resources for Google VR