Google Earth (& Maps) in the Clasroom


Thursday afternoon right about now I will be getting ready to teach one of my favorite professional development classes (right next to blogging and wikis) for CTAP6 – Google Earth in the Classroom. Yippee!

This time around I am also including some information about Google Maps as well. It will be my first time teaching a hands-on workshop for this topic. In the past this class has been just a one-hour introduction to everything related to Google Earth. It was fast-paced and fun, but can be a bit overwhelming for beginners. This time the participants will walk away not only inspired to use Google Earth (I hope), but also with some self-created KML/KMZ files.

I am including a Google Maps component to my Google Earth class because the two pieces of software are becoming so similar and in some situations Google Maps might actually be better instructional tool than Google Earth. I have also recently discovered that creating custom Google Earth files in Google Maps is the most simple, straight-forward way to go.

No matter what you teach there is a way you can use Google Earth with your students. Here are a few ideas for math, science, language arts, and social studies However, many of them tie into physical education and art as well.

  • Social Studies: Um, Google Earth IS social studies. Dump PowerPoint and use this instead! Your kids will love it and be engaged. All the text, images, weblinks, and even online videos you use in PowerPoint can be easily utilized in a Google Earth placemark. While teaching the content you will also be teaching a little geography lesson too. Gigapan and Gigapixl (found in the Gallery Layer) provide imagery you can’t find anywhere else. For, example take a look at the panoramic view of the Lincoln Memorial. While you are in the Gallery layer make sure you check out the Rumsey Historical Maps.
  • Science: As I have mentioned in previous posts 6th and 9th grade science teachers can easily use features such as the USGS Realtime Earthquake information and the Volcano link found in the Gallery Layer. Content provided by the European Space Agency, NASA, and National Geographic can also be found in the Gallery Layer. Teaching astronomy? Google Sky provides you just as much detailed information about space as Google Earth provides for geography. To access Sky mode go to View and then Switch to Sky or click on the Sky icon (its the that looks like a planet).Where can you find these resources?
  • Langauge Arts: While Google Earth doesn’t have tons of built in resources for you, there are a few, such as the Google Book Search and the New York Times link (both found in the Gallery layer). Teachers and students are developing even more resources! Check out Jerome Berg’s Google Lit Trips, Penguin’s 21 Steps, and the Life and Times of Jane Austin for some ideas. Participants leaving my class tomorrow will know how to make these – they’re fairly easy once you get the hang of it.
  • Math: My first journey into Google Earth file creation was a Perimeter & Area project my students loved. Months later they are still asking if they can do it again! Xtreme Triangles is a similar lesson that’s worth a look. Next year (assuming I am teaching a little math) I’m planning on having my students work on a SketchUp project to create a 3D model of a building for Google Earth.

I would love to have every single teacher I know in my class tomorrow, but I also realize that each of us has afternoons full of various personal and professional commitments. With that in mind I have decided to post all of my resources online for anyone to use and I sincerely hope you take the time to peruse and find something for your classroom.

  • Want my handouts for tomorrow? Here is my main handout on Google Earth resources and steps to creating your own files. Since my participants will be using Google Maps to make their files tomorrow I also created a second handout detailing the Google Maps interface.
  • As my personal learning network finds Google Earth or Google Maps material which I think would be useful in someone’s classroom I bookmark them using This link will take you directly to Google Earth items and this link will take you to Google Map items.
  • Finally, for the past 6 months or so I have been posting absolutely everything Google Earth related on my PBWiki. You can assess it by clicking on the picture of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the upper right corner of this page, or by clicking HERE.

If you find something useful or inspiring let me konw by posting a comment. Happy Google Earth-ing.


Photo: Google Earth Gets Historical Maps by Danny Sullivan

Follow Up: As Lisa noted (see comments below) I forgot to say where the class was for any last minute attendees. The class is a CTAP6 course at the Stanislaus County Office of Education. Its from 4:30-7:30pm.


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