**This is a repost of something I wrote for a NING group that is no longer as easily accessible as it used to be.**
Google Earth is a program that has a plethora of uses in the classroom. As Google Earth has been around for over five years, many people, educators included, have written about the many applications Google Earth has. If you are curious about the different things you can see and do with Google Earth, you could easily spend the rest of your summer surfing the 'net discovering cool things. This post mentions just a few to get you started.
What are some reasons to use Google Earth in the classroom?
- To help students visualize information--both current and historical
- To engage and excite students
- To use up-to-date real-world data
- To provide cross-curricular learning opportunities
- To help connect students to global ideas and cultures
- To enable students communicate research, data, and stories in meaningful ways
It's FREE to download Google Earth, and it only takes a few minutes. Once you open the program, a window pops up to offer tips on how to use Google Earth. Those pop-up tips can be handy, and they can also be disabled if you find them irritating.
Don't forget to return to the main site from which you downloaded Google Earth. On the left bar are several links that can provide assistance for users of all experience levels. The Product Tour is actually a series of mini tours about different aspects of the program. These tours are short--no more than 2 minutes, but some as short as 30 seconds. If you need more help than that, the Community link takes you directly to a discussion forum that will likely have answers. If you don't have the patience for a forum, try the user's guide.
From the user's guide site, on the left side bar you can find a link to "Build Earth Skills." Although this sounds like a link specially designed for extraterrestrials, it's actually Google Earth: Learn, self-guided, in-depth tutorial on how to use the program's various tools. You can't just click around on the subjects: you have to start from the beginning. There are tasks to complete and quizzes to take before moving on to next levels. Too bad we can't earn some PD credits from it!
Google Earth in the Classroom
Once you dig around in Google Earth for a little while, you will probably start to think of ways you can you it in your classroom. How can it enhance an old tried-and-true unit? Does it build a bridge between your class and a colleagues for cross curricular lessons? Does it spark an idea for an inquiry-based project?
Here are a few websites that can help get your creative juices flowing with Google Earth. (Or you can just "borrow" ideas from others--that's why they post them!)
- Twenty-Five Interesting Ways to Use Google Earth in the Classroom is a slide show by Mark Warner that can get you started with some ideas. (Check out Warner's other "Interesting Ways" slide shows.)
- Google Earth Lessons is a great go-to guide for everything Google Earth for teachers, as it has links to current developments, lessons, and how-to guides. The lessons organized by type, such as teacher-ed and student-led rather than grade level.
- Google Earth Across the Curriculum does not have a wide array of lessons, but it is a good, basic starting point for teachers wanting to explore how Google Earth can be used outside social studies classrooms.
- Apple Learning Interchange's goals is to give students leverage with Google Earth in such a way they they call it "A Joystick to Learning." Navigate from the right menu to find enough ideas and links to keep you busy for a few days.
- Free Technology for Teachers is a resource blog on many uses of technology in the classroom, including Google Earth. This may not be as robust as some of the previous sources, but it is casual site to poke around in.
- Google Lit Trips is an especially interesting site for language arts teachers. How often do we try to bring a bit of a book's culture into the classroom so students can connect better? This site has some of those resources created already for books ranging from k-12+ levels. It also offers help on how to create some of those resources in your own classroom.
- And just for my SNWP friends, check out Tom Barrett's journey in using Google Earth as a storytelling tool in his classroom. Scroll to the bottom of the post to link to and read the other entries in the series.
Now go take on the world!
(And when you're finished you can start on Mars, too!)