The best Google Earth tips and tricks for teaching can help turn a classroom, or remote learning experience, into a mind-expanding trip limited only by imagination. A big statement for a free online tool, indeed.
Google Earth has been growing and developing for years and, as a result, is now more powerful yet easier to use than ever. It also has more tools that work with it so teachers can offer lots of learning experiences beyond geographic exploration alone.
From diving into history through real-world sites to creating tours with clue-based gamification, there are lots of ways to use Google Earth to learn. We've compiled some of the best for you to take advantage of.
These are the best Google Earth tips and tricks for teaching.
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Google Earth Resources are easy to use
Google Earth (opens in new tab) is crammed full of useful educational resources that are already available for use. As such it can make teaching of those resources very easy. There is a selection of pre-built activities, in many cases along with classroom activities and worksheets for teacher guidance.
For example, the "Detectives & Travel Agents with Carmen Sandiego (opens in new tab)" uses the cartoon character to create a trip across the globe. Clues are dotted about for each of the missions, which require students to engage and learn as they progress.
This comes with a separate resource sheet (opens in new tab) for teachers that explains how to play, what is taught, and how to set assignments specific to the game.
Use Google Expeditions
Google Earth is great in and of itself but once you add virtual reality to its list of powers, the experience reaches new heights. Essentially, the Google Expeditions system uses 360-degree photos taken from around the world to create points from which a student can view sites.
This means you can create virtual tours in which students can feel as if they're really standing at iconic locations. There are pre-made tours already available so teachers don't even have to make their own. For example, there is currently a "7 Wonders of the World (opens in new tab)" tour available that visits the likes of the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.
It's worth noting that at the time of publishing Google has announced plans to shut this down in June 2021. It seems likely this will get added into Google Earth Voyager instead. More on that below.
Take advantage of Google Earth Voyager
Google Earth Voyager (opens in new tab) is another way to explore the globe in a constructive way. Here, Google has laid out various locations of interest, with information to support them, in an easily viewed entry page.
A teacher can offer set tasks to students that will allow them to explore and learn.
For example, you can select the "Safeguarding Iconic Parks" option, shown above, and that takes you to a globe image with pins dropped, each one marking different conservation areas. Select one to get an image or images and short description. Many have links off to more information.
Lots of options for learning are available here, from nature and travel to culture and a dedicated "Education" tab with items such as "Triangular Structures" about the globe or "Exploring Earth's Keystone Species."
One of the great things about Google Earth Voyager is that all the content has already been curated by third parties and safety checked by Google. The result is that teachers can use it as a resource, like a textbook, to be set for students to explore. This saves teacher time while also expanding the student's knowledge and experience.
Work with Google Earth Projects
Projects allow you to compile a selection of markers from around the world – perfect for teachers building a virtual tour for a class. Projects are saved as KML files that can be imported from the projects of others or created new.
You can create a new project in Google Drive, making it easy to share with students or other faculty members. Here are some great options already available.
Explore science with NASA
For younger students there is a great project in conjunction with NASA (opens in new tab) that maps letter shapes on the Earth as viewed from space.
This comes complete with a useful guide (opens in new tab) that can be downloaded or viewed online.
Use Google Earth for math
For math classes there is a useful exploration of geometric principles that follows the important shape of the triangle, found online here (opens in new tab).
This takes students on a tour of structures that use triangles across the globe. Each one has a link off to the Media4Math website that features more information on geometry and its applications.
Study nature's animals
Perhaps you'd would like your class to learn about the flight paths of an apex predator, such as the Golden Eagle.
Or you might want students to explore the wildlife of Africa. This can be done using this project (opens in new tab) that offers 11 different live stream video feeds in South Africa, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A great idea here is to set a quiz with questions that have all the answers found in the text that accompanies each block of information for each dropped pin.