Friday, August 29, 2008

More Powerful Geo Education: Google Earth in the Classroom

This is a continuation of the thread on technology tools for Geo Education initiated in the previous post where I discussed Google Maps in the classroom. (I have talked about Google Earth as well in some earlier posts that I will link to this one shortly).

Imagine being able to look at a zoomable image of the earth as an observer from space - a view of the Ganges meandering through the Northern Indian plains and then joining the Brahmaputra to form the world's largest delta before it empties into the Bay of Bengal, or a video of the 3D view of all the Olympic locations in Beijing as in this rousing youtube video, or a bird's eye view of the the city you live in and find out the actual lat/lon for your home or school! I've tried it - and it's a thrill, believe me! Just following the Ganga to where it meets the Yamuna to locate my home town of Allahabad and then zooming in to explore the part of this land where I grew up - in a way that I have never done before was truly amazing! I've even sat with my kids and explored Bangalore and located our home and the school they used to go to, and noted the lat/lon coordinates of all these locations - it was a lot of fun! (but don't take my word for it - try it for yourself :-))

With Google Earth, you can do all this, and much, much more.

The potential of this tool to make geography (and many other subjects) so much more engaging and interesting and meaningful is undeniable. The Google of Educators site has a superb introduction to the features of this tool in addition to a listing of ideas for the classroom -

"Google's satellite imagery-based mapping product puts the whole world on a student's computer. It enables users to "fly" from space to street level to find geographic information and explore places around the world. Like a video game and a search engine rolled into one, Earth is basically a 3D model of the entire planet that lets you grab, spin and zoom down into any place on Earth. Now, with Google Earth 4.3, you can tour distant cities with Google StreetView, view photo-realistic 3D buildings, and even show your students sunset around the world with the new Sunlight feature.

From literature to environmental science, Google Earth can help you bring a world of information alive for your students. You can use Google Earth demos to get your students excited about geography, and use different Google Earth layers to study economics, demographics, and transportation in specific contexts. For instance:

  • you can use real-time coordinates to demonstrate distance calculations and verify the results using our measurement tools;
  • view tectonic plate-shift evidence by examining whole continents, mountain ranges and areas of volcanic activity;
  • study impact craters, dry lake beds and other major land forms.

Students can also use Google Earth to explore topics like the progress of human civilization, the growth of cities, the impact of civilization on the natural environment, and the impact of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. Using Google SketchUp and historic overlays, students can recreate entire ancient cities. The only limit to Google Earth's classroom uses is your imagination.

Don't limit your imagination to our lonely planet, though, launch your student's imagination with Sky in Google Earth. And if you prefer to explore the night sky from your browser, you can now try Google Sky on the web. Whether you stargaze, explore Hubble telescope images, or check out current astronomical events, you'll capture the wonder of the universe without leaving your classroom.

Here are some other ideas for using Google Earth in your classroom:

  • Biology: Track routes of chimpanzees in Tanzania's Gombe Forest. See the Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee blog here.
  • Environmental Science: Have students check Alaska's global warming problems. See how the Sierra Club used Google Earth to depict this problem here.
  • Geology: Find images, links, and descriptions, with information about thousands of volcanoes around the globe, thanks to organizations like the Smithsonian Institution's Global Volcanism Program.
  • Global Awareness: Study the Crisis in Darfur with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's unprecedented project.
  • History: Explore Tutankhamun's Tomb.
  • Humanities: Have your students scout film shoot locations like this teacher did with The Golden Compass.
  • Literature: Bring class or contemporary tales to life with Google LitTrips.
  • Math: Explore distance, velocity, and wave properties of tsunamis."
Many of the examples described above can be contextualized for the Indian curriculum.

Unlike Google Maps, Google Earth needs to be downloaded and run on your computer. Here's a video on the latest version of Google Earth --


Kenney Jacob said...

When the presentation is interesting then we dont have to teach. Ive seen my cousins kid playing with google maps, trying to find out his home. He knows all the parameters on it. and to tell you the truth, I sometimes takes tips from him.

Shuchi Grover said...

Very true, Kenney. It's quite a coincidence - I just saw this post on about how kids are able to teach themselves and even self-organize to teach each other.

On a related note -- if you're not a member of, do join. That's a great community blog for people in India interested in education.