Google Earth, My Maps, Trip Builder…it’s all so confusing!

Dear Tiger Tech,

There are so many different mapping programs to use in Google.  What's the difference between all of them and which one should I use with my students?



Dear Confused,

Google has made several updates in the last year in an effort to make their mapping applications more user-friendly.  Here’s a quick explanation of each:

Google Earth – Google Earth used to be a program that you had to download, so it wasn’t useful on Chromebooks.  Google has updated Google Earth and now has a version that runs on Chromebooks. Several neat features include:

  • Ability to switch between 2D and 3D
  • Flyovers of the location you are looking at
  • Voyager – Voyager is a bank of prebuilt interactive tours of places around the world that include categories like travel, nature, culture, and history.   The tour consists of several stops, each containing a knowledge card to read.  You can also use the Google Earth tools of 2D, 3D, or street view to see the area before you move on to the next stop.
  • Ability to upload KML files from other Google apps like My Maps and Trip Builder to use your custom made trips in Google Earth.

Great for exploring anyplace on Earth!  The pre-built Voyager tours are great for exploring many places in the world.  FAQs on using Google Earth in the classroom.

Google Tour Builder – Create, save, and share your own tours that can include text, photos and videos with your sequence of places on Earth.

  • Add places to your map
  • Add information about each place.
  • Add up to 25 images and videos for each place.
  • Customize icons and colors for places
  • Use Street View
  • Export and insert into Google Earth

What a great way to tell a story with a series of locations.  Tour Builder is easy for students to use to create maps with.  It could be from events in a book you are reading,  events from a historical happening, locations of a specific landform, locations of scientific phenomenon, or locations from research.

Google My Maps – Create, save, and share your own maps to your Drive account.

  • Add  places to your map
  • Add layers to your map
  • Customize icons and colors for places and layers
  • Collaborate with others
  • Can be embedded in a Google Site
  • Export and insert into Google Earth

If you are looking for a way for students to collaborate on a map that shares a series of locations, Google My Maps would be a good fit.  It has several of the same features of Google Tour Builder but does not support the image and video files for each location.  It does embed into a Google Site, which would be a great way to share the finished maps.  Google My Maps Tips and Tricks


Tiger Tech



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