I recently had the privilege of attending the Google GeoTeachers Institute in Washington, DC. I met fantastic educators from all over the US. We learned about ways to integrate Google Maps, Google Earth, and Google Sketchup into our classrooms. The Institute was held at the National Geographic headquarters, and in addition to checking out the great resources they offer, we took field trips to the Library of Congress and the National Archives. At the Library of Congress, we got a behind-the-scenes look at the map and geography stacks. We saw several historical maps, including a few drawn by George Washington and a facsimile of the Waldseemuller map from 1507!
The entire conference was very exciting, and I learned so much, I’ll have to write a few blog posts to cover it. For this first one, I’ll share a few things I learned about Google Earth.
If all you’ve ever done on Google Earth is look up your house and fly around the globe, you’re missing out! It offers many other features that can be used across all grade levels and subject areas. Here are just a few:
- There is a timeline button located along the top of the screen. If satellite imagery exists for past years in any given location (which it does for many places), you can slide the timeline to show what an area looked like in the past. A good example of how this works: look up Sendai, Japan, and scroll back to before March, 2011. Find a neighborhood close to the shoreline. Then scroll forward again. Chilling, right? But what a great way to make a natural disaster or current event more realistic for kids.
- You can overlay any existing image or map on top of the earth in Google Earth. Here’s a screen shot of the 1507 Waldseemuller map overlaid on the globe.
- To add an image overlay, you can go to the Add menu, or use this button: . Then you can add a photo from your own computer by clicking Browse… or copy and paste a link to an online photo. It’s a little tricky to get maps lined up with the Google Earth interface, but use the Transparency slider to make it a little better. Click here or here for some great tutorials on adding image overlays. And these websites offer some great maps you can use as overlays:
- Topographic Maps
- USGS Topographic Map Overlay
- Library of Congress Map Collections (for historical maps)
- Google Lit Trips: I can’t say enough how cool these are! And I can’t believe I didn’t know about them before this Institute! At this site, you can download free KML files (those are files that open in Google Earth) to follow the journeys of characters from famous literature. There are “stops” along the journeys with images and other media, discussion questions, and internet links related to different parts of the book. Click “About GLT” for more on what Google Lit Trips are, and then be sure to try out some of the files!
- You can find countless overlays, animations, and other tools in the Google Earth Gallery. You can also get to the gallery by clicking the “Earth Gallery” button next to Layers within Google Earth. Try looking for topographic maps, an animation of where US Presidents are from, or a 3D version of Ancient Rome!
- One more link: another GeoTeacher’s Institute attendee’s blog post from the conference, with great screen shots and instructions.