“La lectura es el viaje de los que no pueden tomar el tren,” said French playwright Francis de Croisset, according to the neat handwriting on the wall of a cafe in Buenos Aires.
And nowhere does that become more true than when using Google Lit Trips, a unique digital resource for educators that comes free of charge courtesy of one innovative educator and the free program Google Earth.
Google Lit Trip was founded by Jerome Burg, a retired educator who saw an exciting way to merge technology with literacy. In his words, the service consists of “free downloadable files that mark the journeys of characters from famous literature on the surface of Google Earth. At each location along the journey there are placemarks with pop-up windows containing a variety of resources including relevant media, thought provoking discussion starters, and links to supplementary information about “real world” references made in that particular portion of the story. The focus is on creating engaging and relevant literary experiences for students.” To see what others have said about the project, check out these articles: “Google Lit Trips: Making a world of difference” and “Google Lit Trips: Bringing Travel Tales to Life.”
The project makes ample use of the free Google Earth software to both share Google Lit Trips and to encourage individuals to create and share their own. So far, teachers from around the country have created trips specific to grades K-5, 6-8, 9-12, and higher education.
This is a great resource for those who want to more creatively and directly engage their students with the details of a given story. I could see Journey of Dreams by Marge Pellegrino, one of our book group titles, being a fantastic novel upon which to base a Google Lit Trip. Our Educator’s Guide, for example, considered how geography could be used to analyze and better understand the story. The suggestion was to create a map showing how the family made it from Guatemala City to Mexico City to Tucson and, finally, to Phoenix. With Google Lit Trips, that map exercise could become an interactive experience, merged with topographical maps, quotes, questions, photos, and demographic information. You could create one for your students or ask your students to create their own. Possibilities abound!
The next time I have a free moment, I plan to create one myself. I’ll let you know how it turns out. In the meanwhile, let us know if you get there first!