These days, as we are forgetting to be worried about our dependence on technology, finding an example where it can truly enhance a learning experience provides hope for our techno-filled future. Here we find an example of literature paired with technology that is driving students to the computer—not to look up SparkNotes, but to go beyond the reading process and experience the journeys taken in the books themselves.

Jerome Burg, a teacher at Granada High School in Livermore, California, created the phenomenon that he has dubbed “Google Lit Trips.” The process began when he started using Google Earth to make interactive journeys for his students by highlighting and electronically “traveling” the routes taken in some of the novels used in his classes.

Soon a website was created, hosting a collection of trips that allowed students not only to visualize important places from the books they were reading, but to essentially “travel” to places they might otherwise never have been able to see. The program uses 3-D technology to create realistic environments from places all over the world. Viewers can follow the path through Google Earth, which can be as interactive as the creator wants it to be; features can include pop-ups of photos, illustrations, excerpts and links for further research, and Google Earth even has the capability of representing weather patterns and geographic features.

The site is open to anyone: academics and book-lovers alike need only download the Google Earth program and choose a trip. Google Lit Trip’s repertoire has long since expanded from Burg’s initiation; teachers and students from all over are encouraged to make their own trips and add them to the site. The novels are organized by grade level; simply click on the range you are looking for. You can find Virgil’s Aeneid, for instance, under 9—12, and the children’s classic Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey can be found in K—5.

Each journey can better involve students in the learning process and spark a greater interest with students’ connections to a book. The trips span from Odysseus’ epic journey to the miniscule (in comparison) travels of Boston’s beloved Ducklings.  The site, which has been recognized with several awards including the 2008 Goldman Sachs Foundation Prize for Excellence in International Education for Outstanding Achievement in the category of Media/Technology, is providing teachers with the maps to guide their students through the worlds literature creates, and onto an exciting and robust path for their educational journey as readers.