Using Streetview

A lot has been written about the implications for Google Street View in terms of privacy; I don’t think that there’s much to be added to that discussion, and the implications are probably still not clear. For what it’s worth, I think I found myself in this picture:

Having said that, even I can’t really tell if that face in the crowd is me – So I won’t be losing any sleep over it yet. If you know where to look, you can find my flat – but to be fair, I’d be more worried, if you just came down the road and found it for real, so I’m probably OK.

What I’m more interested in is how this tool can be used in language classes; as you will see from this page: , I’m really interested in using authentic materials in language teaching. What could be more authentic that looking at the real streets outside! Until recently the place where I work was completely off Google’s radar, but now they’ve found us, I thought that I ought to make the most of it:

I’m going to give a list of the ways that I’ve been using Street View in the classroom – but I’d really love it if you could add any ideas, or anything that you’ve done with it underneath… Now that’d be great!

Grammar: Present Continuous

I’ve often used images to look at this area of grammar. Google now gives you a supply of safe, relevant images to use for this. Learners can zoom in on specific scenes and describe what is happening. There are some limitations to this in  street view, due to the way both English grammar and street view  work, this area of language works best in ‘busy’ scenes, while many of the areas pictured in street view, at least in the patch of suburban East London where I work are fairly empty. I recommend giving learners a ‘busy’ local location to look at and describe:

Describing local area: (Neighbourhood nouns & adjectives; there is/there are…)

Everyone’s natural response to seeing Street View is to look for their own house, which strangely enough looks very similar to how it did when they left it this morning! Don’t stop your learners doing this, exploit it and  get learners to describe their local neighbourhood. Get learners to give their partners tours around their neighbourhood describing the things they see:


Giving and following directions is one of those perennial topics which comes up in language classes – and street view can really help with contextualisation.

What you have to make sure is that you can use it as a stimulus to get learners to produce language, rather than just looking at the pictures. The example embedded here is the result of a search for driving directions from Google but you might find it better just to ask students to explore and try to find their way between known local points. To increase the amount of language being produced, ask learners to produce a written/typed paragraph giving directions in pairs; the only big problem with this is that it can be a bit slow still (Maybe not the case if you have a Korean super-connection, but here in the UK, it’s a bit sluggish).

Contextualising Coursebook Material

You can use street view as extra contextualisation for teaching materials. Here’s an example: In the much-maligned Skills for Life ESOL materials, there is a whole unit based around community life in Clitheroe : Available here: Entry 3 Unit 7. Given that it’s the other end of the country, few of my learners are familiar with Clitheroe – Street View gives them the chance to see what it’s like:

Of course, this depends on whether the coursebook has used an authentic map, or was written hoping that they wouldn’t get found out!

This use leads neatly on to:

Finding places of interest

As well as adding context to course book materials, you can choose your own places of interest, and get learners to explore them – i.e.

Central London

Take your learners for a wander around the West End – Get them to plan a day out in Town (and write it down!)


See the Scottish Capital, how could your learners describe it?


Get students to ‘walk around’ Stonehenge and try to work out what it is for.


Or just take them down to the beach – we do go to the beach in England, you know!

Technical Considerations

If you want to use street view together with the whole class, it is easy enough to project it on to an Interactive Whiteboard and just navigate around with your hand (this is good for using your local neighbourhood as a virtual flashcard) .

However, if you got the facilities it’s easy to use this resource with individual learners or small groups. Google provides link codes for every possible view on street view – this means that you could just email your learners a list of links for them to use, or add those links to a VLE, such as Moodle. The links take students to the standard Google Maps interface. To get the direct link, click on the link icon at the top right-hand side of the street view window:

Google Link Code
Click here to generate link or embed codes from Google Maps/Street View

Personally, I think the best way is to use the embed codes provided by Google. This should work for any content management system that allows you to input HTML – it’s what I’ve done on this page, using WordPress (See here: Instructions for embedding Google Maps into WordPress ) I assume that Edublogs works in the same way. When you click on the link button, there is an option to edit the embedded map. This allows you to edit the size of the map window. On this page I’ve kept the windows fairly small, so it doesn’t take too long to load, however with students I would want to give them a larger window to play with. Don’t worry if you know nothing about HTML – you don’t actually need to understand the code to paste it into the required location – it just works by itself.

With my learners I’ve embedded Google maps into Moodle; just cut and paste the HTML code provided into the HTML editor on Moodle pages ( look for the button that looks like this: <>).

Moodle HTML Editor
Click here to switch to HTML editor

I’ve had a few problems getting this to work exactly as I would like in Moodle. Not all the modules seem to be able to embed it – I really want to put it into a forum, but haven’t been able to yet. This may just be a problem with our installation of Moodle, I don’t know – I’m not really that techie. Anyway, I haven’t had any problems embedding Street View into a Moodle webpage so my solution is to create a webpage and then link to that from the forum – not ideal, but it works.


Before using street view with my students I did ask if anyone on Twitter had any suggestions, and I’ve taken some here from Sue Lyons-Jones (@esolcourses) and Mike Harrison (@harrisonmike). Thanks for that!

Stop press

Just found a great video on YouTube with some more suggestions:

Also a handout to use in class:


17 thoughts on “Using Streetview


    You have some super ideas here, which I WILL be using (am I over-doing the capslock?)

    Thank you for taking the time to put these together – this really is fab.

    I still haven’t found me on Streetview. I found my house but the car isn’t there so I’m not in. I might see if I can see through the window of the local Starbucks as I’m probably there 🙂

    Well done on a brilliant collection of ideas.


    1. I’m glad you like the post! I’m sure there will be loads more ways of exploiting this resources – it’s such a huge concept – a photographic representation of our surroundings. I suspect that we’re just scratching at the surface at the moment.

  2. Phil, this is fantastic! Roll on September when I can actually TEACH again (instead of orchestrating/ marking blinking exams…grrr)!

    I think I’ll have to be careful, though – Google Street overkill may ensue, as you could pretty much revolve a whole scheme of work around it, right?

    I especially like it for present continuous. But perhaps that’s because people-watching is one of my favourite ways to pass the time…

    Anyways, thanks so much, and keep up the good work!

    Callie 🙂

    1. Overkill is definitely a risk – don’t know about you, but when I find something new I tend to throw myself at it for a couple of weeks, and then find out what really works.
      My personal excesses so far were showing a learner this, when they wanted to spell Mosque;

      And then starting a discussion with a road sign I’d seen:,-0.065393&sspn=0.0022,0.004823&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=London+E15+4QB,+United+Kingdom&ll=51.537701,0.005836&spn=0.008742,0.01929&t=h&z=16&layer=c&cbll=51.537781,0.005766&panoid=pMrYe9rQwmxHD3ug_ygTCw&cbp=13,299.02,,3,-0.53

      That’s probably overkill; the problem is that I do find it a bit slow (this blog page is a good/bad example – but you wouldn’t normally have this many embedded maps).

      The potential for using this is enormous, just because there is so much on it (about 95% of UK streets at the moment, apparently) – the problem will be finding the best bits – there are some Google sight-seeing sites out there that could have some good recommendations. There are also some that have found funny scenes:
      They could be good for present continuous presentation…

  3. I like it a lot! Great ideas around grammar and describing places. The suggestion about visiting places of interest are particularly useful for people in UK working on embedding Citizenship into their courses.

    1. That’s a good idea…. I was toying with the idea of coming up with a list of areas representing different communities in the UK – not sure how practical it would be in the end. Anyway, here’s my first contribution – Queen’s Market, Upton Park –,+Newham,+London+E13+9BA,+United+Kingdom&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&hl=en&cd=1&geocode=FX5aEgMdzoQAAA&split=0&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=6.881357,14.941406&hq=&hnear=Queens+Market,+London+E13+9BA,+United+Kingdom&t=h&z=16&layer=c&cbll=51.535576,0.035321&panoid=b41SS4euxoicv39bMPKmhA&cbp=12,243.77,,1,5.35

  4. Thanks for sharing your ideas of using street view.
    I have found it useful for helping children place a book within a given context, for example if a book is set in a particular country where street view is available. THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY by Siobhan Dowd and Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems (set in Boston).

    1. That’s a great idea – I think there’s a lot of potential for using street view to contextualise unfamilar places – it may be better for foreign language teachers than for teachers of a second language as it can help give a flavour of the country concerned…

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