Finding friends in Moscow

A Russian Lesson using Google Earth VR

This session was led by Olga Klimova-Magnotta Professor in Slavic Languages and Literature. After initial discussion and a useful visit to the room, we settled on a series of activities for her two Russian classes looking at “People: Appearance and Personality” (Int.) and Family Photo album (Elem.)
screencaptures from Olga’s phone as she used Google Streetview to find the people 
The brief to students was to “…travel to Moscow using Google Earth VR to meet with our Russian pen pal, with whom we have been corresponding through emails/social media.” Ahead of the session we visited specific places on the map in advance and created a short narrative about what their Russian friend looks like and what they might be wearing.  Our hope was to have the students find these people on the map using a series of descriptions (and the info for the location of the meeting). In class, they would be working in pairs helping each other to find this person.  We also planned a “pretend” phone call from this Russian friend and describing the people next to them in order to better help the American student in finding them.
We thought about the length of time that this might take and how useful it would be as an activity. One of the issues in preparing the session was that the information in Google Earth (for desktop) was inconsistent with Google Earth VR, so sometimes made finding the people quite challenging. On the whole the session was very successful with most groups finding at least two or three of the four people. They were able to describe what people were wearing and celebrated when they found them.


  • Students commented that they had some challenges, including getting use the VR where they had no previous experience.
  • It was difficult to find the exact frame depicted on streetview, this required a degree of skill with Google Earth VR.
  • Comments were that this was a fun engaging session
  • Students were using their language skills
  • Some students went “off piste” to visit other landmarks, including the inside of a gallery and a church (whilst remaining in Moscow).

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