June 20th Review and Recommendations...
The new versions of Google Earth and SketchUp are FANTASTIC!!!!
If you haven't tried them out yet, you can get the latest version of Google Earth here and the SketchUp version here. I would recommend against deploying the new versions to your classroom computers right away, however, for the simple fact that the latest version is a Beta, meaning that the final version wil be available in the near future after some of the bugs are worked out (not that I could find many).
Some new things...
Mac and Linux versions!!!
New navigation tools -
The navigation tools are now overlayed on the main display window.
There are also 'Quick Tools' icons at the top of the screen.
In addition to the new navigation tools, the layers panel has been very nicely reworked to allow for quicker access to the many layers, a better way of seeing what layers are turned on or off, and my favorites, some brand new layers that will be excellent for the classroom! Some of the new layers include Geologic phenomenon such as volcanos and earthquakes as well as geography features such as different layers of borders!
Multiple Border Options
Geographic Features are even more powerful teaching tools!
Another big, big change is that along with SketchUp you can now apply textures to 3D objects that can be imported to Google Earth, opening up amazing new presentation options as well as learning opportunities for students!
You can now apply textures, such as photos, to objects!
Overall this is wonderful update!!
While there are many pluses, like the features mentioned above, along with the fact that any licenses migrate seamlessly to the new version, there are some down sides.
First and foremost are the system demands of the new versions. They take a lot of juice to run effectively! This means that if you had sluggish performance on your student computers before, they will start to seriously crawl with the new versions. For instance, on the development computer I use at home the previous versions could be run along with several other open applications with no adverse performance drops, but with the new versions things are starting to get fussy.
Overall, as a school tech and a classroom teacher I would seriously suggest that you do not deploy the software to your student computers unless you don't have another deployment cycle planned within the next six months. If you need to deploy over summer vacation, go ahead, but try the software out, while under heavy load, on a test computer first to see how the computers handle it along with SketchUp. At our school I will probably do the update to the student machines in late July or early August after doing some tests and just hope that the final version is released by then.
So, in summary, a big thumbs up to the folks at Google for this new release! It is indeed a job well done!!
As for this site, I will not be remaking the previously generated tutorials and will use the new Beta version for any lessons that I develop over the next 6 weeks, so stay tuned!!