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This module explores the potential uses of Google Earth for Earth Science teachers and students.
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Google Earth can bring students from the classroom into a universe of new experiences. This free downloadable program provides satellite imagery of the Earth, with additional geologic and geographic data. Google Earth has a specific online community for educators where teachers can get lesson plans, share ideas, and view previous student work. Google Earth is used across many content specific areas based on its wealth of useful information, but here it is only used in application to Earth Science classrooms.
Using this tool, teachers can take students on virtual field trips, to places all around Earth (and even into space), to explore many Earth Science topics. This allows students to see real life examples of volcanoes, see erosion caused by waves, and analyze impact craters, along with many other uses. Students’ perspectives are widened when they themselves can explore, in a 3D format, geologic, atmospheric, oceanographic, and space phenomenon. Although Google Earth offers a very helpful service, it does have some constraints when used in an educational setting. These include access to computers and high speed internet, and site navigation difficulties. The extraordinary usefulness of Google Earth generally outweighs any of these minor setbacks, and many teachers have planned effective lessons using it.
There are many pre-planned lessons using Google Earth that have already been developed for the use by Earth Science teachers. These include lessons that are both teacher and student centered. This module describes four classroom lessons, along with an explanation of how to get started using Google Earth, resource affordances and constraints, and helpful considerations for teachers.
1. To get Google Earth installed onto your computer for free go to http://www.google.com/earth/index.html. It can also be used from the browser, so the software does not have to be downloaded onto the computers. Once you do this, you are ready to use this resource. Below are helpful links to get oriented with Google Earth.
2. This first site is from Google. It is a beginners video tutorial on how to use certain features of Google Earth. These are the basic functions that a teacher should know to effective run lessons using Google Earth. http://www.google.com/earth/learn/beginner.html
The Google Earth Beginner Tutorials are short videos that walk you through what you should see and click on in the program.
The tutorial video topics:
· 3D Trees
· Historical Imagery
· Searching for Places
· Drawing and Measuring
· Place marks and Tours
· Exploring Mars, Moon, and Sky
· Moon in Google Earth
3. This site contains a manual that is specifically designed for Earth Science Teachers learning about Google Earth. It gives step by step written instructions accompanied by screen pictures for certain functions of the resource. http://hurri.kean.edu/dept/murphy/oedg/docs/GEforESmanualV4.pdf
4. Below are some vides that help with some of the more advanced functions of Google Earth.
This YouTube video is a short video on how to create your own Google Earth tour. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuJwarqTLQA
This video explains how to overlay an image onto the Google Earth information. Teachers can use this to add images to tours. Such as an Earth Science teacher putting rock sample pictures next to an outcrop location. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMuEjgEidjo
The video examples how to add place marks to Google Earth. If a teacher just wants their students to visit specific locations, label a location, or add extra information about a location, then adding a place mark is useful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtJ3o1fdmrQ
This section describes some Earth Science classroom examples of how to incorporate Google Earth. This tool can be used in teacher and student centered lessons. It is best if students are using Google Earth in an inquiry way over just viewing places on a map. In other words teachers should encourage student curiosity and exploration, rather than just using Google Earth as map.
1. “Earth’s Changing Surface”
Discovery Education has created a classroom lesson that uses Google Earth. This lesson is ready to use. One lesson uses Google Earth to take students around the county to see different geologic landforms, and to discuss the processes that have shaped these landforms. This lesson describes the objectives, materials, procedures, evaluation, vocabulary, and academic standards necessary for successful completing of the lesson. It is at first teacher-centered, then moves focus to the students, when they get to search for landforms with a partner. This example is beneficial because a teacher can take students on a field trip without ever leaving the classroom.
2. “Using Google Earth to Explore Plate Tectonics”
On the Cutting Edge provides useful tools for Geoscience educators, such as sample lesson plans utilizing Google Earth. One lesson uses Google Earth to let students independently explore plate tectonics. Through this example students investigate on Google Earth topography, bathymetry, earthquakes, and volcanoes and how they relate to plate tectonics. The lesson requires no background knowledge of plate tectonics, but should be used with upper level high school Earth Science students. This example is ready to use and encourages student inquiry.
3. “Observing Estuaries”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has developed a classroom lesson for Earth Science that uses Google Earth to teach about the landforms and features of an estuary. Students take a journey from the uplands in a riverine system in Alabama, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico to an estuary. During this lesson students will learn how landforms differ in estuary and upland non-estuarine environments, and about the specific landforms of an estuary. This lesson is ready to use.
4. “Extreme Weather and Estuaries”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has developed a classroom lesson for Earth Science that uses Google Earth to teach students about an estuary in North Carolina. Through this lesson students learn the landforms of a coastal estuary, how extreme weather affects an estuary, and how severe weather events can change water quality. This example is ready to implement in the classroom, and is a student-centered exploration of an estuary system. Google Earth is simple to use for this lesson; it does not require that a student or teacher know more advanced functions.
Google Earth can be used by students and teachers to explore the entire earth from mountains to underwater trenches without ever leaving the classroom. This helpful resource is free to download, making it highly accessible. Google Earth lessons allow students to explore Earth Science topics on their own, such as in the lesson “Using Google Earth to Explore Plate Tectonics” from above. Some times it is hard to fluidly link classroom concepts together, and also have topics relate to real life situations. This is achieved through using Google Earth in the lesson “Extreme Weather and Estuaries” where students can see how an estuary in North Carolina is affected by severe weather.
There are some challenges in using Google Earth. First of all it needs to be downloaded on to a computer to use it, so a teacher may have to take the time to download it before a lesson. Google Earth can sometimes be hard to navigate if using more advanced functions (or even simple functions). It takes time for both the teacher and students to be comfortable using Google Earth. One last complication with using this tool is that most lessons require that you download certain files to work with in Google Earth. The downloading of these files may cut into instructional time.