Do you remember learning about foreign countries, landmarks found on other continents, and other far away places in school? If so, your teacher probably showed you a few pictures of each place and that was that. Wouldn’t it have been so much more interesting if you could have “flown” to that specific site and been able to explore it? Well, with Google Earth you can!
Google Earth is a virtual globe with real-life imagery that allows users to search for certain locations. Whether it be a street address, a country, or a specific landmark, Google Earth will find it and virtually “fly” you to that location, zooming in to your exact search term.
To get started using Google Earth, you will need to download the program to your computer. While this may seem bothersome at first, the program has so many great features that it is worth waiting a few minutes for it to install. Once installed, the Google Earth Feature Tour is a quick way to get accustomed to the many features of the tool. It shows you how you can add a placemark with the name and a customized description of the place, map out a path or trail, or add a picture after searching for a location.
When students are learning about a certain location, like a historical city, a famous monument, or a type of landform, they can create their own placemarks and write their own descriptions about the location. Teachers could do the same thing when teaching about a place to provide students with a real life visual, as well as information and facts. I know I would have thought virtually flying to a location on the other side of the globe was much more interesting than seeing tiny pictures in a textbook when I was in elementary and middle school. What about you?
Now, you might be asking yourself how Google Earth is different from Google Maps. The first difference, which you probably already noticed if you have experience with Google Maps, is that unlike Maps, Google Earth has to be downloaded to each individual computer. Even though this is somewhat inconvenient, especially when it has to be downloaded onto multiple classroom computers, it offers much more advanced features than the more easily accessible Google Maps. Google Earth offers better imagery, along with much more interactivity and functionality. Google Earth is equipped with many more features than Google Maps like 3-D views, elevation measurement, and the ability to draw lines, shapes, etc.
Beyond the simple features of Google Earth, are more involved ones like creating a tour. In a tour, a teacher or student can select locations to be visited and even have the option to record their voice at each location.
This is a great instructional video to help you learn how to create your own tour. Jacqui Murray’s blog post, Wonders of Google Earth, provides one of her lesson plans for using Google Earth tours in her classroom. Students select a few different landforms, for example: Ayers Rock, Mt. Everest, and Victoria Falls, and then create their own tour with information they have learned or researched, and their own voice, to share with the class. This is a much more interesting way for students to learn about famous landforms around the world and gets them actively involved in their learning. This feature of Google Earth can be utilized for many more topics than landforms, as well. Students could use cities, or even specific buildings as points on their individualized tour.
Besides just being able to see the Earth’s surface with Google Earth, it is also possible to virtually visit the Moon, Mars, and even underwater. With these exciting and unique features, Google Earth can be used for much more than geography and history lessons. Teachers can use these extra features of Google Earth to teach about space and the world under the surface of the water.
For more resources on how to use Google Earth or how to incorporate it into your classroom, visit these websites:
- The Google Earth Blog, while not directed towards educators, has quite a few great ideas on different and creative ways to use Google Earth.
- Google Earth for Educators offers tutorials, tips, and lesson plans for teachers to use.
- Google Earth and Education gives a few interesting ideas on how to use Google Earth in subjects like literature and history, rather than just science.
So those are just a few ideas how Google Earth can be used in a classroom! Do you think they would be helpful for students? How else do you think Google Earth could be used by teachers and students?