Articles in category "Geo Tools"

Using Roundme to create an classroom VR resource

Here is version 1 of a classroom VR resource that I have produced using a smartphone, Roundme (and the Conisbrough Castle English Heritage guidebook).

Roundme call their immersive experiences 'spaces'. This 'space': Grand Designs - Conisbrough Castle, Yorkshire, UK - includes 8 panoramas.  The idea is that students experience the resource using a smartphone and a Google Cardboard headset as well as another digital device such as a tablet or laptop. The 'hotspots' that include information and questions can not be seen while in 'VR Mode'. 'Portals' link the panoramas - guiding the students through the experience. I have tried to propose questions that look for evidence within the images.

Feedback gratefully received.

Google Expeditions are not just for geographers…

Google Expeditions is Google’s platform for enabling Google Cardboard users to experience visuals in an organised, teacher (guide) lead manner.

The visuals offered by Google Expeditions are not solely for the domain of geography teachers and their classes. Students at the International School of Geneva - Campus des Nations have been using Google Expeditions to view the heart, respiratory and circulatory systems, as well as exploring how ice and water may have formed the landscape of Yosemite National Park.

A Biology teacher at Campus des Nations guiding his class around the values of the heart

A Biology teacher at Campus des Nations guiding his class around the values of the heart

Although Google provides information for the teacher (guide) with each expedition the opportunities for any teacher to use the visuals within their own subject area is huge.

Google provides a spreadsheet of their current expeditions here but the best approach to explore the opportunities is to download the Google Expeditions app onto an Android or iOS (Apple) smartphone or tablet.Once you have the app then you can explore what Google has to offer.


Google Expeditions

Image source:

Here are just a few suggestions from a quick swipe through the expeditions on offer:

  • History - The historical buildings in the UK, Little Bighorn Battlefield, the War memorials around Ypres, Salem in 1630, Women’s suffrage in the United States, Middle Ages and Renaissance architecture
  • Earth Sciences/Geography - volcanoes, earthquakes, rocks, minerals and gems, Yellowstone National Park, exploring inside an Arctic glacier
  • Biology - Various ecosystems - coral reefs and wetlands, the auditory system, skeletal system, fertilization
  • Religious Education - Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Holy Places in Jerusalem
  • Arts - The Freer and Sackler Galleries, the History of Jazz
  • Physics - the Moon, the Stratosphere, the Solar System, CERN
  • Experiences that could provide stimulus for creative writing - Varanasi, a trip to the North Pole, Greece, Out of Syria - back to school, The Burj Khalifa, Kathmandu, Nuclear disaster aftermath: The Fall Out

Creating VR in the (geography) classroom

This blog post supports a workshop I delivered at Practical Pedagogies 2016 titled: Creating VR in the (geography) classroom.

Google Expeditions

Google Cardboard Handsets




Visiting Yosemite with Classroom VR

This post is the culmination of a period of research. It was prompted by a teacher’s request for her class (Year 7) to experience Yosemite National Park to stimulate discussion of it’s wonder and the part water has played upon forming the landscape.

Our school has a BYOL policy and (most) students have smartphones. We have a class set of Google Cardboard headsets. The steps below should work on iOS and Android devices.

360° Video via YouTube

Smartphone + Google Cardboard

Install the YouTube app > open the app and search for 'Yosemite slackline 4K' > turn the device landscape and click on the Google Cardboard icon.


Click on this link. Click anywhere on the video and hold the mouse button down to be able to drag your view of the video around.

Visit 360° spheres using Roundme

Smartphone + Google Cardboard

Install the Roundeme app > open the app > search for 'Yosemite' or > click on the Menu icon > People > type 'Richard Allawa'y > choose either 'Above Nevada Falls' or 'Yosemite Valley from the summit'. Turn the device landscape and click on the Google Cardboard icon.


Click on either 'Above Nevada Falls, Yosemite Valley' [2 scenes] or 'Yosemite Valley from the summit of Sentinel Dome'. Click anywhere on the image and hold the mouse button down to be able to drag your view of the 360° sphere around.

Google Expeditions


Google ExpeditionsSmartphone + Google Cardboard

Install the Google Expeditions app on a tablet for the teacher. Install Google Expeditions and the Google Cardboard apps on student smartphones. Teacher (Guide) runs El Capitan or National Parks: Mt Rushmore, Yosemite & Yellowstone expeditions. Students 'follow'.


Not available.

Climbing El Capitan in Street View

Smartphone + Google Cardboard

Install the Google Street View App > search 'Yosemite Valley' > click on 'Featured' > click on 'Yosemite' > click on 'The Base of El Capitan'. Turn the device landscape and click on the Google Cardboard icon.


Click here.

Visit Glacier Point in Street View

Smartphone + Google Cardboard

Install the Google Street View App > search 'Glacier Point Yosemite' > click on 'Explore' > choose a good view!


Click here.

Desert VR Experience created for Individual and Societies class

A four scene VR experience created from 360° images taken during a geography field trip to Morocco. The images where taken with a Ricoh THETA S and a Nexus 6 smartphone using the Google Camera app.

The students will use their own smartphone devices and school provided Google Cardboard headsets. The context of the lesson can be seen here on

Solution Number 2: HoloBuilder

I want students to be able to experience a 360° image directly from a webpage. That 360° image (photosphere) should at the very least be embedded into the page and preferably be easily opened in a VR manner such as using Google Cardboard and a smartphone.

Google Street View does not allow photospheres to be opened by external links. I have already reviewed Roundme. Here are my opinions about another interesting alternative - HoloBuilder.

HoloBuilder bills itself as ‘the best way to create and share your virtual reality content’. HoloBuilder seems to be more focused upon the real estate industry than Roundme is. This in many ways could give the product a better revenue stream and therefore longevity - a key consideration when a teacher is investing resource creation time in something.


  • The major advantage of Holobuilder is the built in web-based Google Cardboard capabilities - there is no need to launch a separate app. This seems to work much better on Android devices than it does on iOS - due to the frames of the browser not disappearing on iOS.
  • The free tier (Starter) would seem to give you all you would need as an educator to upload and host your own photospheres.
  • The ability to annotate photospheres, like’s ‘Hotspots’, is easy and richer via the web based editor.
  • You can create quite complex and rich tours of a location.


  • HoloBuilder’s approach seems to be less ‘geographical’ than’s - there isn’t  the link directly to a locational map. This locational map (found on helps give the photospheres context.
  • The community around the photospheres is also less ‘geographical’ verus
  • There doesn't seem to be a link from the embedded photosphere back to the ‘creator’ therefore less ‘discoverability’ of other photospheres and projects.
  • It remains a shame to have to use a third-party solution rather than being able to stay within the Google ecosystem of Street View.

Southampton to Cape Town in 1937 - Using ArcGIS Online

This lesson has existed in various forms for the last couple of years. The basis of the learning experience is that students design the route that a plane would have taken in 1937 to travel from Southampton to Cape Town.

This version of the lesson uses ArcGIS Online as the main digital tool for designing and then documenting the route.

Before students start this lesson using ArcGIS Online they should:

  • have had an ArcGIS Online account created for them, they should have accessed it and understand how to open/save content within it.
  • experienced the use of 'Map Notes' as a way of annotating a map.
  • used the measuring tool.
  • experimented with changing the base map.

This document 'An Introduction to ArcGIS Online' will take the students through all of these prerequisite steps.

Travel by Air

Lesson Sequence

  1. Students use ArcGIS Online (mainly the measuring tool and Map Notes) to design their route using this map as their starting point.
  2. Students produce a route card for the journey - I would suggest the use of Google Sheets and some basis spreadsheet skill development [Record basic data, use basic formula].
  3. Students use the route they have designed in ArcGiS Online to produce a Story Map [Share > Create a Web App > Build a Story Map > Story Map journal].
  4. The '1922 World Map (Web Mercator)' Tile Layer by National Geographic is included in the starting map so that students can explore the pre-decolonization names and borders of countries.
  5. The student submits their Story Map (and route card) for assessment. An MYP Individuals and Societies assessment rubric can be found on - produced by Ellena Mart.

Solution Number 1: Roundme

So after several hours trying different approaches and posting on the official Google Help Forum I can confirm that Google’s Street View app will not currently open photospheres from external links.

I intend to outline a number of different solutions. I still want a simple workflow - that allows students to click a link on their smartphone device and arrive in a Google Cardboard ready photosphere - so it is now time to look for third-party solutions.

‘Googling’ the issue lead me to the Photo Sphere Google + Community and then in turn to Roundme.

Roundme is a web and app (iOS and Android) based application that makes the production of engaging photospheres easy. Roundme launched in 2014 and received $3 million of venture capital funding in 2015.


  • It is (currently) free and without advertising - but see also the ‘Cons’...
  • When using an Android device clicking on the ‘Roundme’ logo on an embedded ‘Space’ opens the app (as long as it is installed on the device) and then with one further click the photosphere can be viewed in ‘Cardboard’ mode.
  • It is easy to upload images taken either using a 360° camera such as the Ricoh Theta, the Photosphere function of the Android Google Camera app or Google Street View app on iOS (the Google Street View app is not available for the iPod Touch).
  • Geolocation seems to be one of the core elements of the service.
  • You can add notes to the photospheres as ‘Hotspots’ to add learning potential, teaching points and context.
  • It is possible to link photospheres together using a ‘Portal’ to produce a ‘Space’.


  • It is free and there is no advertising and therefore what is the service’s longevity? (I would happily pay for the service that Roundme is offering.)
  • When using an iOS device clicking on the ‘Roundme’ logo on an embedded ‘Space’ does not open the app (as it does on Android) but instead opens a browser. It would be necessary to know what/where you were looking for within the iOS Roundme app.
  • It is a shame to have to use a third-party solution rather than being able to stay within the Google ecosystem of Street View.

There is good news - Roundme is intending to have a mobile browser Cardboard mode available within the next couple of months.

Problem: I would like to create a ‘Google Expedition’s type experience in my classroom

As a geography teacher I want to take advantage of the teaching and learning opportunities that VR in the classroom presents.

I teach the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Geography course and part of it is teaching ‘Extreme Environments’. As we discuss glacial landscapes and the processes that are forming them I want to ‘take’ the students to a mountainous location so they can see how it all links together. I want to promote synthesis.

How about the ability to ‘revisit’ a fieldwork location once the data collection is over. ‘Standing’ there within a photosphere once data has been analysed would help a student to reflect upon the location, the data and all the influencing factors.

This is what I want to be able to do:

A student using their own smartphone, clicks upon a link in a digital resource I have produced. This then opens a photosphere on their handheld device in such a way the student can view it (easily) using Google Cardboard.

This doesn’t sound like a big ask does it? Google for Education has the ‘Google Pioneer Programme’ where Google representatives come into schools and run a similar experience using resources they provide.

I have 30 sets of ‘Google Cardboard’, a critical majority of my students have smartphone type devices (either iPhones, iPod Touches or Android) and I have 360° photospheres that I have taken in locations that link to the teaching I am doing - so this is going to be easy…

The Google Street View app is the main Google provided tool for looking at geolocated photospheres. You can view photospheres that you have contributed to as well as ones taken by others. You can share a photosphere using a hyperlink (e.g. this link) however clicking on this link on a smartphone device does not open Street View on the device. The Street View app will not open photospheres from external links.

What is Google Cardboard?

Google Cardboard is Google’s virtual reality platform. It is based upon the utilization of a user’s own smartphone device and a fold-out cardboard headset. This leads to a low-cost system which has much lower requirements for access within an educational setting.

Google Cardboard’s specification were designed by Google but they do not manufacture the headsets themselves. Companies are currently producing Google Cardboard in a range of materials ranging from Cardboard (obviously...) to plastic and metal. Depending upon the materials used and the number purchased costs can range from a few Euros per set to €130+.

Headset schematics and assembly instructions are freely available from Google so a school with a laser cutter could easily produce the headsets if they could access a cheap source of 45mm focal plastic lenses.

I will review the various Google Cardboard headsets I have.