Tech In Pedagogy

Tech Resources For Your Teaching

Using Google Maps and Earth in the Classroom

My wife and sons recently took an extended trip to Ireland to visit my wife’s family. I met up with them over the winter break. Part of my job before the trip began was to ask my sons’ teachers what they would be missing in school, and if there was anything they could do to keep up. Each teacher suggested they keep a journal. Once I got to Ireland, I took tons of pictures and printed a few for the boys to show to their classes. The fact that the pictures I took with my smartphone could be geotagged and posted online got me thinking about using maps in the classroom. Here are some ways Google Maps and the closely related Google Earth can be used in the classroom.

Follow the main characters in a story: Students can map out the path of characters in a story. Pins (markers) can point out key points from the story.

Travel Journal: This idea is how this post started. When a student takes a trip, they can take pictures and pin them on a map to show others where they were. Information or captions can also be added about where they were.

Research: Google Earth allows the user to overlay information on a map. There are many possibilities. They include the safari overlay with indigenous animals, borders, places, weather, gallery pictures, and global awareness. The global awareness overlays are a treasure trove unto themselves. Options include fairtrade, Greenpeace, endangered species, and several human rights overlays.

Virtual Field Trip: Both Google Earth and Maps have a street view feature. This feature allows the user to “take a walk around” a particular area. I used this to show some friends what I saw in Dublin as if we were just walking around the city.

Street View Pictures: The majority of the street view pictures are added by Google. Like I said in the previous tip, Google Street View pictures allow to you to “take a walk”. An app named Street View can be downloaded on smartphones. Students can use these apps to take their own 360 pictures. They can keep them to show others or the pictures can be uploaded to Google Maps and Earth for anyone to see. I used this app to take 360 pictures on Trinity College campus and in a church in Dublin Castle with my phone.

Historical Imagery: Some areas in Maps and Earth allow for imagery to be viewed over time. When this feature is available, the user can use a timeline slide to change the time view.

From the Moon to the Bottom of the Sea: Google Earth allows you to look at the topography of the ocean bottom and the moon. There are also pins in place to mark places of interest like famous shipwrecks. There are overlays for sea life, buoys that measure ocean temperatures, and places where earthquakes have occurred. These could be a great resource in some science classes. There are also views of the sky in general, and Mars. Which leads me to……

Astronomy: The sky view on Google Earth is a huge resource by itself complete with tutorials, informational pieces, and an extensive set of overlays like you find in the normal view of Google Earth.

Current Events or New Units: There are times when students are learning about a current event or starting a new unit, but they have little to no idea where the place is that they are discussing. I have seen this when introducing a unit on the Rwandan Genocide. It can be useful to point out where a place is or, even better, what a place looks like when discussing a current event in an unfamiliar place. As a side note to the Rwandan Genocide unit, one overlay option in Google Earth shows places where genocidal or human rights incidents have occurred. The user can click on a pin for each event and the details of that event are made available.

Timeline of Events: Classes can follow a timeline of events that took place in a multiple areas to follow the time and path of events. An example might be the travels of Lewis and Clark.

Make a Gallery: Many of the options in this post can be customized to fit the needs of a specific class. The teacher can then make a gallery of the map to save or to show in the future. Here are some gallery examples.

So, here you have some ideas for how to use Google Maps and Earth in the classroom. How do you use Maps and Earth? What cool lesson ideas have you thought of when in your travels? Please share. Follow me on Twitter @JoshuaElliott3 for more tips and ideas.

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educational technologyGoogle EarthGoogle in EducationGoogle Mapsinstructional technologylesson ideasstreet viewtechnology in the classroom • January 21, 2016

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