Google Earth

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.

Mt. Everest as seen on Google Earth

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.

Placemark created for Mt. Everest

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?

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18 Responses to Google Earth

  1. Thanks for the mention, Rebecca. Google Earth continues to be a favorite with my students.

  2. Emmie C. says:

    Rebecca, thanks so much for sharing with us all about Google Earth! I thought it was so interesting how Google Earth can be downloaded into each individual computer, unlike Google Maps. It seems to have so many more features than Google Maps, which is very beneficial to both students and teachers. I can tell how students would really enjoy this application. Google Earth seems to be a fun and creative way to teach students all about the Earth, fly to Mars and the Moon, and incorporate both geography and history lessons. Very cool tool!

  3. Christiana C. says:

    Rebecca, I loved learning more about Google Earth. I have played around with this tool before just by looking up places I know such as my house and being able to see it on such a commonly used program was crazy! I think that there is so much that could be done in the classroom with Google Earth. For instance I love the idea of students creating their own tours with information they have learned and gathered about historical landmarks, and then taking the class on a virtual tour. I agree with you- this is much more interesting that opening your textbook to a tiny picture. By getting to “fly” with students to almost any location, the subjects of social studies, history, etc. become much more alive and interactive. Great post Rebecca, I think that this tool is definitely worth the installation.

  4. Meagan W. says:

    Great post Rebecca! I love Google Earth! I still find it entertaining to play around with, tracing different routes and being able to zoom into houses! I think that Google Earth can be used so much in the Elementary school classroom. I love how you mentioned “earth tours” with this you can show expantion of the US, the migration of people, or even zoom in and show the land terraine in other areas the students are not framiliar with. Google Earth is a fun tool that students can interact with and still learn a lot from. I had never thought about using this tool in the classroom but it is great! Thank you so much for sharing, it is worth having on the computer!

  5. Kate H. says:

    Rebecca, I’ve used Google Earth before and absolutely love it but I never really thought about using it in the classroom before! My ten year-old brother used to love finding our house and seeing the area around it on the computer. Kids love Google Earth! I agree with Meagan in that the “earth tours” are an awesome tool! I have never heard of this before! It’s similar to Scribble Maps in that you can show and describe places to students for them to get a visual representation of what they are learning. Allowing students to see the places they are learning about creates deeper meaning and greater understanding. Great job!

  6. Elizabeth L. says:

    Rebecca,
    I have used Google Earth before and I think it is a really great tool! I used it in my global class freshman year when we were learning about the Middle East and it was really cool to be able to actually see the different cities and villages we were talking about, making the topics and issues a lot more tangible. I think that students would really broaden their view of different cultures and countries by using Google Earth because it is a very visual tool that can show the literal distance between where the students are and where the foreign culture they are discussing is. It can definitely be used for all age levels and an help students connect with what they are learning about. Great job!

  7. Sarah C says:

    Rebecca, thanks for this great post about Google Earth! I have used this tool before at home, however not for any specific educational purpose, more for just creeping on my house and the houses of my friends. This would be a very valuable tool for me as a Spanish teacher to show my students parts of cities in Spanish-speaking countries or other landmarks that are relevant to what I am teaching in class. It’s always good to have technology to incorporate into cultural lessons and this is a great tool to do so with.

  8. Hilary S. says:

    Rebecca, this is a great post! Thanks for sharing how we could use Google Earth in the classrooms. I definitely plan on using Google Earth in my classroom. Until reading your post, I had no idea that you could view landmarks such as the White House that easily on Google Earth. This is a great tool that I could definitely imagine integrating into a geography, history or even earth science unit in my elementary school classroom. Thanks!

  9. Sydney B. says:

    Great post, Rebecca! I use Google Earth all of the time just for fun so it was great to hear how I can apply it to the classroom! It is a great concept to “fly” students to the place they are learning about! It would make geography so interesting! Also, I did not know that you could create a tour. That is awesome! That way, you can easily show students from city to city! So many lessons could come out of Google Earth! Thanks, Rebecca!

  10. Anna H. says:

    Great post, Rebecca! Like Sydney, I’ve used Google Earth a lot just for fun, seeing what my house looks like from satellites and everything, but I haven’t had the chance to explore the opportunities that it presents for the classroom. I’m glad I was able to learn more from your post! I feel like this creates a great new dimension for lesson plans and curriculum area. It would be a great tool to use in science class, especially to explore other habitats/ecosystems. I love the idea of the tour as well! The user-friendly pieces make it even easier to use it in lessons! Great tool!

  11. Katie R. says:

    Great post, Rebecca! I think it is very neat that each individual student can download Google Earth to their computers in order to search for different locations. As an educator, we can tell our students to look for a certain geographical figure on the Google Earth and then they can pull it up on their computers! It is a great 21st Century tool that can be used in the classroom to help aid students visually. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Patrick C says:

    Rebecca,this is a great post. I had never thought before that Google Earth could be used in the classroom, but after reading this post I am beginning to see the possibilities for using it. This can be a great tool for teaching students about locations and landforms by showing the students actual images of the places. Being a future history teacher I can definitely see myself using this a lot in the future. This appears to be a great tool and will be very useful. Thanks for posting this is a great post.

  13. Allie W. says:

    Google Maps is an awesome tool! There are so many different ways that this can be used and your post gives awesome ways to do so. It can be used in so many grade levels from finding your address when you need to memorize that to middle grades when learning states and countries all the way into upper elementary schools with countries, animal and biosphere locations, etc. This is absolutely the new pull down maps of our generations that is a lot more interactive and interesting!

  14. Madison L says:

    Rebecca,
    I think it is awesome that one could use a tool such as this in the classroom. If there was a lesson on geography this would be the great go-to tool because the maps are so vivid and clear and not to mention they are very detailed. What’s interesting is that students could put their own place marks in specific places such as if they need to find where historical events took place. What is also very interesting is the fact that Google Earth is in 3D which I think will get more students engaged in what they are learning. Also, viewing the moon or going underwater using this tool I think is quite amazing in terms of a tool like this.

  15. Kendall C says:

    This is cool and definitely something I can use in the classroom because more and more literature being read in school is coming from different countries and areas of the world. That way, when students are doing background research about an author, novel, and the places of both, the students can see it for themselves. It’s like a virtual tour of real things: much better than simply just telling students about it. This way, students can also explore for themselves to get more hands on experience.

  16. Erin M. says:

    Rebecca,
    I think this was a great tool to do a post on. I have seen a class in Burlington use Google Earth to look at different famous monuments around the world. They pick one place each week, look at it on Google Earth and then research its importance. The one that I saw them do while I was there was Big Ben in England. The students loved using the SmartBoard to move around the view and see its surroundings. Like you said I think that this is a huge step up from looking at small pictures in textbooks. I also think it is great because you can zoom in and out and see where different things are relative to your location, which I think is a really important concepts for students to understand! Nice job!

  17. Riley K says:

    I think Google Earth would be a great tool for students to be using in the classroom. I personally love Google Earth and use it all the time to look up new and fun places. In the classroom it can be used in geography lesson to show different places around the world and pin point them. Also, when pin pointing you can map out a way to another destination as show in detail by recording a tour. Students will love the idea of typing in places around the world and being able to zoom in and out and check them out. They can also in their free time use it to look at their own houses which I always though was fun and interesting to be able to see my house using Google Maps because the world is so big and you can zoom in so much as to see your own backyard!

  18. Hannah D. says:

    Rebecca, this is a great post! i have used Google Earth before, but never thought to use it in the classroom. I usually look up places such as my house or places around it because I think it looks really cool! I like how Erin mentioned looking up different monuments and such on Google Earth. It would be a great tool to use during a history lesson! It would be really good for a geography lesson as well. Thanks for showing me how a tool I already know how to use can be used in the classroom!

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