Google Earth has been available as a free download for computers and mobile devices since 2005. The core feature set is a mapping of the earth using satellite imagery, aerial photography and GIS 3D Globe technology.
Google earth can be downloaded and installed for free. Click here to download. Once opened you can start navigating the world. Users can zoom in on a particular continent, country, state, city, landmark or house! You can fly around a location to view pertinent information foryour lesson. If you are discussing Mount Rushmore, why not fly to it on Google Earth and show it to your students. You can also pan the area as well as put the location of it compared to other locations in perspective for students.
I would like to highlight some of the features available in Google Earth that would be valuable additions to the classroom.
When you zoom into a city or landmark Google provides access to street level views. When in street view you can fly through the streets of a city or walk right up to a famous landmark. Do you want to show your students what the streets of Rome are like? Fly there on Google Earth and enter street view? Do you want a close-up of the Eiffel Tower? Street views are easy to use. This tutorial will help you get started. (Youtube access required to view the tutorial)
Once you navigate to a desired location there are numerous layers that can be activated. These include images, video clips, Wikipedia entries, roads, 3d buildings, geographic features, real-time weather and traffic, historical map overlays, roads, borders, water bodies and even U.S. Senators and Congressional Districts. The layers are accessed on the lower left side. Click the boxes to turn them on and off. You can learn more about the layers here.
Within the Google Earth Gallery and Layers are options to turn on and overlay historical maps onto Google Earth. The Rumsey Historical Maps collection is a great example of historical maps available in the layers that can be over-layed on Google Earth. There are also a number of historical maps available in the Google Earth Gallery. If you click on View—Historical Maps from the top toolbar you will be presented with a slider bar that allows you to view a particular area at a historical point in time. This is useful when viewing damage from a natural disaster or the effects of global warming.
Earth, Moon, Mars and Sky
Did you know that you can also view the Moon, Mars and the Solar System in the same way you fly around earth? Open up Google Earth and click on VIEW—Explore and select the location you would like to visit .
Google Earth Tours
Google Earth allows users to place bookmarks at particular locations. When you apply a bookmark you are also provided with a bubble where you can add information about that location. That bubble may contain text, images, videos, hyperlinks or audio narration. A user may create an automated tour that will fly from bookmark to bookmark. When each location is reached the bubble will appear and the content may be viewed.
There are thousands of pre-made tours available in the Google Earth Gallery or online by simply searching for Google Earth Tours. Some sample student projects may include a tour of the battles of the civil war or the a guided tour of a novel. Google Lit Trips has some great literacy based tours available.
There are tours of states, countries, historical events, climbs of Mount Everest and much more. These can be engaging and informative classroom lessons. Students may create tours or teachers may create and share them.
Ruler, GPS and Flight Simulator
Under the tools menu in Google Earth you will find a ruler that can be used to measure exact distance between two location in miles or kilometers. There is also a full blown flight simulator!
Google Earth offers a variety of resources to make lessons interactive, engaging, informative and relevant. Why not take your students on a guided tour of the locations your are discussing. How about replacing a PowerPoint project with an option to create a Google Earth Tour. You can learn more about creating Google Earth Tours here. Visit my wiki page for more resources here.