Google Workshop, Part 3: Google Earth

Using Google Earth

Google Earth Download – Before starting, you’ll need to download and install the Google Earth program. It’s available for Mac, Windows and Linux. Be sure to check the computer requirements for the program since it does require a relatively new machineGoogle Earth Logo to work well.

While Earth is free there is also Google Earth Plus (costing $20 a year) and Google Earth Pro ($400 a year) each of which offers additional capabilities and features such as higher resolution pictures and the ability to connect Earth to a GPS device.  Take a look at this handy chart for a more complete comparison of the three versions.

Navigating in Google Earth – To get where you’re going, you’ll need to know how to move around the world. Fortunately, that’s easy and this page will give you more than the basics. If YouTube is not blocked in your school, this video tutorial will also help you get started with the most current version of Earth (4.3).

If you’re using version 4.0 – 4.2, this page has the basics of navigation or you can watch this video.

Regardless of the version, this tutorial will show you how to conduct a search for locations in Earth.

Instructional Applications

The Earth software includes a number of options that add layers to the globe marking all kinds of information. While we will be creating layers of our own, first take a look at the material found under the layers section in Earth that comes from Google and it’s partners. You may find that some of it will be useful in your teaching.

To turn on a layer, click the box next to the name. To turn everything off, click the box showing a minus sign next to Primary Database at the top of the list. It’s never a good idea to turn everything on since things will be very crowded and, since some are real-time links to information, it may slow things down to a crawl.

Here’s a sample of layers that might be useful in the classroom:

Geographic Web: includes materials from Panaramio, a sharing site for travel photography, and Wikipedia. Zoom in until you see an icon and click on one to see pictures and other information. In the Preview folder you’ll find newer material provided by the National Geographic Society, the New York Times, NASA and others that Google is giving a try out.

Roads, Borders, Terrain: all give you pretty much what you’d expect.

3D Buildings: Google offers another free program called Sketch-Up which allows you to create three dimensional models. Turning on this layer, shows buildings that have been created using Sketch-Up in place on the globe.

Street View: new in Earth version 4.3, this adds a feature from Google Maps which allows you to see photographs take at the street level in many major cities and navigate using that view.

Weather, Traffic: adds layers showing information about those features which is supposed to be recently collected.

Global Awareness: here you’ll find layers dealing with ecology topics.

There’s much more lurking in these layers and Google and their partners change the information frequently. Don’t be afraid to turn them on and play.

Layers From Others

Geography Awareness Quiz – The folks at the My Wonderful World blog (sponsored by the National Geographic Society) have put My Wonderful World Logotogether a quiz about Africa that uses a Google Earth overlay. Just download the KML file, double-click on it, and follow the directions.

Asia Tour – A collection of activities, including several KML/KMZ files, from My Wonderful World that focus on various aspects of the countries and people in Asia.

Google Lit Trips – Teachers combine Google Earth with classic literature by mapping the places and events found in books commonly read by high school students. Download the KMZ file for each.

Spring Sojourn – During spring break of 2007, 150 students and their teachers took a road trip to visit some of the major sites of the civil rights movement. One school used Google Earth to document both the trip and this history. Use their KMZ file to follow along.

Smithsonian Volcanism Program – This site keeps track of active volcanos being studied by scientists all over the world. Download the placemark file to see an Earth overlay with markers for all known volcanos and links to more information.

Placeopedia – A site that links locations on Google Maps with the article about that place in Wikipedia. Registered users can add markers to the map and you can download the KML file to see the 50 most recent additions overlaid on Google Earth.

Google for Educators-Earth – Google’s own education section with links to lesson plans and other materials that use Earth for teaching. One of their partners is Discovery Education’s Unitedstreaming and their section has several activities to download and use (Unitedstreaming is not required).

Do It Yourself

Marking Locations – Part of the larger Google Earth Tutorial, this page will show you how to create and edit your own markers on the maps. You can then save your places to a KMZ files which can be easily shared with others. This video will also explain the basics of marking locations.

Google Earth also allows placing some HTML into the marker descriptions, including links to pictures, videos and other web pages. Here are some basic instructions on how to create better balloons without learning a whole lot of HTML along with six templates (link to kmz file) to give you a good foundation. This YouTube video tutorial will also help you understand using templates.

Do-It-Yourself Activity – Click the link and open the file in Google Earth.  We’ll be using these templates in the workshop.