Google Earth Lessons

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Google Earth News

May 29th, 2008 - News Roundup - My goodness but it has been a busy, busy month!! Here are some of the latest developments to keep you current. Starting in reverse order:

Google Earth comes to a Windows Web Browser Near You! - In what is sure to open up a fantastic new range of resources, Google has released a new browser plug-in (at this writing, only for Windows, but Apple and Linux are undoubtedly in the works). The plug-in uses Java, so advanced level classes can now combine programming with Google Earth like capabilities! Big Links:

OgleEarth's Map converted with TakitwithMe

OgleEarth's example using's tool

Microsoft's Free GeoTagging App is sweet! - Microsoft's Pro Photo Tools software (Windows Only) is another great way to add geographic data to images! I love the interface. It uses the MS Virtual Earth technology embedded in a panel to help you navigate to and mark photos, that can then be easily added to a wide range of Earth Apps/web resources such as Panaramio, Flickr and of course, Google Earth. It also supports GPS devices too! Home Page of MS Photo Tools here.

PhotoProTools Screenshot

Microsoft's Stellar Entry! You just have to see Microsoft's WorldWide Telescope!! - Once again, this is Windows Only and it doesn't have anything to do with Google Earth, other than to show a beautiful alternative to Google Sky, but my gosh, the software is amazing! My students were immersed in space for a full class period of their own volition, which says a lot! There are so many great things about this free software I could go on for pages, but one thing the kids and I really loved was the Tours. There are many pre-made ones, but you can make your own adding multimedia capabilities along the way. The software is packed with features, including the ability to interface with computerized telescopes, 3D planets (including Earth via a MS Virtual Earth interface), time controls and so much more! WorldWide Telescope just HAS to be in line for a whole galaxy full of software design awards!! WorldWide Telescope Home Page

WorldWide Telescope

Earth Browser 3 is released - This was the program that really got me and my students excited about global visualization years ago. It is cross platform and is $25 per seat. I purchased the full version for personal use since I want to encourage development, but unfortunately there is no way a single programmer can compete against Google, Microsoft or ArcGIS. The one advantage I can see in the new release is the ability to have an embedded web browser. EarthBrowser Home Page


NASA's World Wind Goes Java! - If you haven't used World Wind, it pre-dates Google Earth and has a very dense feature and data set drawing on whole constellations of NASA data (there is a World Wind Moon and Mars subset which is perfect for exploring a broad range of science topics). With the incorporation of it being Java enabled, it allows for a stunning array of visualization and development possibilities as well as the ability to embed World Wind windows in web pages for all computer platforms. Expect to see some remarkable new education resources as this technology matures! For examples, visit here. WWJ Home with link to SDK.

WorldWind Java Example

May 4th, 2008 - Flat Stanley icon for use with the Flat Stanley Project. Just a fun little thing that I was tinkering with...

Flat Stanley Icon

Paste the web address below into your placemark's custom icon location and you can have Flat Stanley show up on earth wherever your class sent him!

If you haven't heard of Flat Stanley, he is a boy who gets flattened one night and has a series of wonderful adventures. Written by Jeff Brown, Illustrated by Tomi Ungerer (originally) and published by Harper and Row in 1964, Flat Stanley ( - Scholastic) inspired a whole series of Flat Stanley books as well as the 'Flat Stanley Project' ( where Stanleys are mailed around the world and students write stories of his adventures.

It struck me that it might be fun to send Stanley around the world in Google Earth.

Flat Stanley meets the Queen

Stanley at Buckingham Palace with 3D model (click for full size)

The full lesson is still under development, but you can get started with your kids today with a little imagination and some placemarks that ask good questions to spur writing and literacy.

Just create a placemark where Stanley is visiting, click the yellow thumbtack to change the icon:

click thumbtack, click the 'Add Custom Icon button' add custom icon and paste in the green URL above.

paste url

Then click OK, OK and there's Stanley! Hope you have some fun with this one, and feel free to share success stories with me by emailing "david AT" (except with @ instead of the AT of course).

May 4th, 2008 - New Nifty Trick - Insta-Topos with WMS - Learn how to add dynamic topographic maps to anywhere in the US in two minutes or less, as well as get introduced to the power of Web Map Services (WMS) and some of its limitations.

Accessing WMS



May 4th, 2008 - Super Workshop-Ready Manual for teaching with GE! Frank Taylor at the Google Earth Blog spotted another great educational resource for teachers who are interested in using Google Earth entitled "Designing and Creating Earth Science Lessons with Google Earth" by a team of teachers in New York, including Steve Kluge (Fox Lane HS), Drew Patrick (Fox Lane HS) and Eric Ferman (Eastchester HS). The long single page is a wonderfully concise, to the point, well illustrated tutorial on how to use Google Earth in your lessons. I can really see this document being successfully used as the basis for any number of workshops and staff development opportunities. They are also kind enough to include the page as a PDF download as well! A great collaborative effort and well worth spending some time on before leaping in to teaching with Google Earth (and a lot less overwhelming than this site is :-) Great job guys!

April 20th, 2008 - Juicy Geography offers new lesson! - Noel Jenkins continues his series of powerful, challenging lessons with an examination of land use policies surrounding Stonehenge. The lesson utilizes a broad range of materials and Google Earth capabilities as students justify their chosen solution in dealing with the challenges facing this remarkable landmark and World Heritage site. Designed for 12-14 year olds, the lesson can be customized for other age groups.

April 15th, 2008 - Google Releases Version 4.3! Today Google released the latest upgrade to Google Earth and there are some fantastic changes! Navigation has been simplified with new controllers (which I am still getting used to):

New controls

You can also click on the surface of Earth to zoom and control:

Click Navigation

But aside from the navigation changes, some content changes have occured as well. There is now the ability to show the day/night sides of Earth with the current dividing line,new buttons New Window

the ability to view Street View images of select cities (formerly only available in Google Maps, be careful though, it makes performance of the computers and network drop significantly):

Street View cylindersStreet View

Word is that the new Mac version also now supports the Flash based content like movies and Quia content that Windows users have enjoyed for a while now!

Full details

(click for full size)

The new version will also display the date that the images were taken at the bottom of the screen (select areas only) so you won't have to wonder how old the imagery is. All in all a beautiful update with some great new stuff for you and your students!

April 14th, 2008 Easy Video in Placemarks with! YouTube, while popular, is generally blocked by content filters in schools for obvious reasons. Thanks to it is remarkably easy to include video into your placemarks though (still Windows Only for a short time longer). There is a growing array of educational videos being posted by teachers from all over the world. To include a video, just find the video you need, create a Google Earth placemark at the desired location and then copy/paste the embed code that is provided on the TeacherTube page.

Embed code

You can also download the video using the provided link if you want to host the video file locally to reduce network strain. In that case, simply put the network or drive path in place of the http part of the embed code.

If you register for TeacherTube you can upload your own (or student created) video files and TeacherTube even supports uploading of the supporting KMZ placemark files!

Here is an example I created to see how it worked (kml file) ( Link to project video with support file). For this concept piece I used an inexpensive ($90 at Circuit City) little hand held digital video camera, shot the video, tossed the .ASF video file produced by the camera into Windows MovieMaker, added some support stills and video, saved it under the 'for the web' settings, uploaded it to (account creation needed to upload) and instantly the video was available! All in all it took maybe an hour or two to produce.

This would make a wonderful project idea for students to work on with only a minimal investment. I can't even begin to imagine how creative the students would be!

April 12th, 2008 New Site features K-12 Math Lessons! created by Thomas J. Petra is a remarkable new resource for teachers looking for applied math lessons with Google Earth! As I explored the lessons I couldn't help but think, WOW! The lessons are phenomenal, the support materials are great, and some of the concepts are deeply innovative in their application! A MUST SEE!

January 27th, 2008 New lesson added - World Wonders With Google Earth - Lesson Notes here, Student Page here, entire lesson zipped here (7Mb with video tutorial) . Students explore over 30 amazing landmarks around the world and create placemarks with linked photos courtesy of the WikiMedia Commons. 3rd - 8th Social Studies

January 5th, 2008 - Video Tutorial Added - Enhanced Placemarks with HTML

Another video tutorial, this one includes custom icons and how to use an HTML editor to create enhanced placemarks with colors and graphics. Streaming On-Line (17 minutes, 30Mb) or as a .zip archive (30Mb) for use over a LAN or off CD.

January 3rd, 2008 - Speaking of cold... The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has a wonderful library of Google Earth enabled content for you to use as you examine topics such as Glaciers, Sea Ice, Permafrost and Antarctica

One of the most impressive collections contains over 4,000 images of glaciers and other images from around the globe!


The collection is organized into network folders.


Most glaciers have many links which you can use to have students investigate chilly topics.

Another great resource, although not directly Google Earth related, is a series of lessons about Earth Sciences, from the Tides to Plate Tectonics with great models and activities for students to investigate on-line courtesy of NOAA. These would be great for Grade 5-8 Science computer station activities.

January 1st, 2008 - PDF's get Google Map enabled (Windows Only) - Here is a curious little advancement, for what it is worth. Now map PDF's can be Geo-enabled, to a degree. The US Geological Survey (USGS) recently started making their entire topographic map collection available for free to download as PDF. As neat as that is, it is even neater that the maps gain additional functionality thanks to an Adobe Acrobat plug-in called the GeoPDF Toolbar, a free addition from TerraGo Technologies (

So, follow the step by step directions to download the map you want from the USGS Store (

Map selection interface at the USGS Store

Selecting the map you want at the USGS Site is easy

Then after you have downloaded and installed the GeoPDF Toolbar (pay particular attention to the last screen of the installer to see where the toolbar was installed, since on my computer I had older versions of Adobe Reader and it only installed it into one of the older versions) your map PDF's gain additional functionalities!

Map it with the Google Maps function

One of the functions in the GeoPDF toolbar is GoogleMaps integration.

The plug-in can do GPS tracks too, but I didn't try that part. Anyway, with the tool you might want to use the combination of Geo-enabled Topo maps to lead students to make predictions and analysis as they switch between the more abstract topographic representation of earth and other, more familiar views provided by Google Maps.

In Google Maps

Comparing similar map information helps lead to understanding.

While you are at the USGS site, be sure to check out their extensive, royalty, copyright free image gallery that contains thousands of scientific and historic images from around the world!

Archived Headlines- Here

GELessons Editor's Pick - Essential Placemark Files:

Geography & Social Studies K-12
- 185 World Webcams - World Designer -
Science & Weather K-12
World Cloud Cover - Recent Earthquake Monitor - Day/Night Line -Volcanos of the World - Mars Map Pack v1.1
Google Earth Tools All Users
Utility Collection (network version) - Utility Collection - Icon Palletes - GPS Visualizer

GELessons Site News

May 23rd - Added the Doodle Earth Nifty Trick Tutorial
May 19th - Added the GPS Visualizer tutorial.
May 17th - Added the 3D Neatie Nifty Trick tutorial.
May 12th - Added the 'File Browsing and FTP with Google Earth' Nifty Trick.
April 26th - Added the 'Endangered Planet Project' lesson.
April 23rd - Added the Google Earth Screen Shots Library start. Includes all Menu items and Search Panel (71 screenshots so far). I need to reorder the database I think so that search results appear in the order of the menu items. Any other ideas for improvements are welcome!
April 22nd - Slapped together the Screen O'Lay! Nifty Trick tutorial. It is functional, but needs some work I think.
April 21st Got some work done on building a screenshots library. Redesigned home page for clarity. Added a Collaboration Central page summarizing interactive features.
April 16th - Finished Section 2 of Teaching with Google Earth covering purchasing, planning and management of Layers and Placemarks.
April 14th - New Tutorial in the Nifty Tricks section - Appearing Live... Adding Live Pictures to Placemarks!
April 12th - Added the first of a series of 'Nifty Tricks' tutorials! How to colorize placemarks.
April 8th - New Math/Social Studies Lesson Added! Create a neat Google Earth image of where your students originate from while learning Mean, Median and Mode.

Did you Know???

Google has a very attractive Educational Initiative where if you qualify you can recieve a 1 year Google Earth Pro License? The license retails for $400! Read the posting at the Keyhole Community BBS here.