Thoughts on Google Earth in the Classroom

Google EarthSince Google took over the Earth project from Keyhole, inc. several years back, I’ve been interested in how this technology can be more effectively used in the classroom. Google themselves have done a decent job of this in their Google for Educators pages, pooling information from teachers all around the world in a literally global piece of technology (excuse the pun – I had to!)

Despite making fairly extensive use of overlays such as Ancient Rome 3D and 360 Cities, I’ve struggled with planning lessons which consistently build higher-order thinking. Much of the time, students fly different places pan around and easily get off-task very quickly! It can be a real headache when trying to re-enforce the purpose of the lesson and the specific activities which need to be done.

With some help from my Connected Learning colleagues this week, however, I seem to have finally understood the kinds of ways in which Google Earth can be used to really challenge students to think. Specifically, I’ve approached using this technology in relation to:

  1. immersive learning in which students simulate an actual experience movement in time and space
  2. contextual learning – where students understand space relationally
  3. strategic thinking – using points on maps to formulate strategies to real problems
  4. broadening awareness – using the discovery ‘moment’ as the basis of key learning points

This term in a thematic unit entitled Expressions of the Human Spirit, our students use Google Earth to travel from the Waling Wall to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, retracing the steps of Jesus Christ and exploring the relationship between old and new. Later in the term, they also develop guided tours of key Roman architecture and build geographic skills at the same time. The biggest learning curb is my own – not being a trained Geography teacher, I’m learning on the job (again, with the help of some very gifted colleagues).

What an exciting time to be able to experience what is perhaps the next best thing to being in a place you’ve never visited!

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About Michael

Cellist, singer/songwriter, school teacher, nerd, recent scooter enthusiast and failed philosopher.
This entry was posted in Classroom Teaching, Reflections and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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