It recently came to my attention that many of the students at my high school have never traveled to Japan. In fact, I came across just one kid - whose family was stationed at a US Military base there - who had ever set foot on the island of Honshu.
Being the generous instructional coach that I am, I decided to rectify this situation and set up an immediate tour of some of my favorite Japanese tourist spots.
While there are vastly expensive methods of taking kids to foreign countries, I decided to travel on the cheap - using Google My Maps and Google Maps. (And I did not even use Google Cardboard, although those would have been a nice finishing piece.)
Google My Maps integrates with Google Maps providing the ability to customize a map (in our case it was a dream vacation travel itinerary) with photos, videos, and written information along with links to specific locations and points of interest.
While GMM allows the customization, the integration with Google Maps is what really opens up the doors to authentic "travel" experiences for the kids.
Consider this story: When I was 20 years old, I had the opportunity to climb Mt. Fuji in Japan. The ascent occurred in the middle of the night so we could watch the sunrise from the summit. Beautiful. Breathtaking.
However, altitude sickness overcame me and I spent much of the time on top and on the descent with a very nauseous stomach. As it turned out, I vomited on the mountain, a scene which caused quite a disturbance amongst those nearby. See, in Japan, it is not common practice to throw up in public areas; the Japanese go to great lengths to not spread germs and infectious diseases.
So here is this 6' 8" American man puking all over their sacred mountainside. But when you gotta puke...
In the end, there was no harm done to the mountain or to me - or to Japanese customs, as far as I know. But I always imagine that there is a nice plant or flower growing on the trail...in my honor. In fact, let me show it to you:
Yup there it is - growing proudly on the trail :-) Of course, this is not really the plant (or is it??), but the use of Google Maps makes the imagery more vivid and in turn, makes the experience more real.
While we cannot take our students to spots all around the globe, we can provide opportunities for them to explore the sights and sounds that the world has to offer - all from the comfort of their own seats.
Without further delay, here is My Trip to Japan:
While this map is not in tip top condition, it does shed some light on the possibilities afforded to students as they study in any content area.
Here is another map I created that shows Google My Maps applicability to virtually any subject at any level:
Consider utilizing this technology in all subject areas to help students create more vivid and memorable experiences...ones they cannot get from completing a vocabulary worksheet.
Thanks for joining me on my trip to Japan.
Be sure to follow me as I travel to other locations far and beyond. Also follow me on Twitter and Instagram. I promise you'll enjoy the ride.