Monday, June 28, 2010

Google Earth Mashing - ISTE 2010 Day 1

I am in my final session of the day on Earth Mashing using Google Earth. In Saskatoon Public, the new teacher laptops have Google Earth as part of the standard build. I have been showing it to Science and History teachers this year, and am in the session  hoping to learn something new. Links for this session:
Okay, this session just started but I am already not caring for it. So far they have shown us three ways to call people and leave a message so you don't need to talk to them and three ways to pick a student digitally, all of which look like casino slot games. Each thing seems to be about avoiding connecting directly to others. Not a good sign. Ah well, I am trying to keep an open mind.

Some tools that you may not know are there:
  • The ruler can be used for measuring either distance or area around the edge perimeter. Great for teaching geometry
  • You can use not just the Earth, but Mars, the Moon and Space
  • You can add your own pushpins, add details to them and put them in folders. This allows you to make tours.
  • You can download .kmz files, which are other people's tours, or have your students make tours
  • You can use a cheat sheet top allow your student to do a series of low level activities like crossing out the lies or choosing a multiple choice answer from a list (yawn). I'd far rather have my students make something than answer questions.
  • You can embed a fotobabble, animoto, sketchcast, scrapblog, photopeachslideroll or voicethread (not free unlike the rest of the list) or a glogster into Google Earth (exciting if kids do it, and you can do it with anything that offers and embed feature).You can use timetoast to get code for creating timelines in Google Earth (think Social Studies 9) or voki to have an avatar talk about something. For each of these you just take the embed code and then paste it into the description field of the placemark. This appears only into your own version of Google Earth. You need to share your placemark by right clicking on it and either emailing it to keep it private or clicking share to make it public. Make sure that you save your folder as a .kmz first, so all placemarks are saved together and ready to share (.kmz files are zip files). For schools with digital drop boxes, the .kmz file can just be copied into the drop box.
  • For those of you in science, you will sometimes see .kml files for download. Those are files sourcing from a live, updating database (like a Google spreadsheet).
  • I have my students make custom icons. You just take any .jpeg you have and make it an icon by right clicking on your pushpin and selecting properties. Then you left click once on your pushpin and change it. It allows students to customize their work in a way that feels familiar from social networking.
Google Earth has some good tutorials in their help section, including ones for putting your placemarks into your blog, wiki etc.

Something I did like learning is that if you want a throw away account for you students, you can create a gmail account that is your account +student (called picking backing). I might be JamesWMCI+betty. That was a good idea, especially for elementary students.

This session went much faster than the Internet connection allowed, and the presenters did not circulate to help those who could not keep up. By the end, that was a big chunk of the group because people fell behind and could not catch up. This wasn't an issue for me, but I got tired of hearing them say "well, never mind" or "we need to move on." The Internet wasn't tagging much, they just had more to do than the hour allowed. having said that, Google Earth is awesome, and now that it is on all teacher laptops, we should start teaching it more. We'll also need to add it to student machines as we renew the labs in high schools this year.


  1. Thanks for the ISTE updates. I am really missing not being there this year when so many people from Saskatchewan are. Your posts are keeping me in the loop. Google Earth is an application I have not done much with - I need to get into the tutorials and do some exploring.

  2. Yes, Google Earth is really worth the look. We miss haveing you here. Hopefully all is well in NB.

  3. For those of you looking - Google Earth: Learn, Become an Explorer ( is worth the look.

  4. Wendy,
    glad to see you are enjoying the conference and continuing to blog. Thanks to you and many others I feel like I have a shot at keeping up, the big ideas remain the most important. The dog (pedagogy) still wags the tail (technology)