Google Earth Lessons Blog

An Educational Resource for Teachers

Nice while it lasted…

Filed under: General — GELessons Blog Admin at 2:15 pm on Saturday, September 22, 2007

Things are really busy at the school lately so I didn’t have time to look at the changes in the latest version of Google Earth (4.2.0198) but they apparently wrote out the ability to call the Windows Media Player from within balloons. This means we are stuck with only displaying Flash content which severely limits the multimedia abilities that Google Earth had for a short while. Why did they write it out? Maybe to stick it to Microsoft, maybe because it was unstable, who knows.

I personally am very disappointed and hope that the Google Earth development team finds some other way for users to create multimedia enabled balloons for the wide range of content available on the internet that is not in Flash swf or flv format.

In the meantime, it means that you have to have full control over your content so that you can convert it to the Flash formats. As a teacher with too much to do already, I think most teachers won’t go to the trouble of finding a free, or buying a bunch of converters. Those that do deserve commendation for going above and beyond!

Again, let’s hope Google sees the value of incorporating a divergent range of multimedia formats within balloons and gives us back the ability to take Google Earth forward.

Thanks to Lars in Denmark for making me aware of the sad change.


Convergent Technologies…

Filed under: General — GELessons Blog Admin at 1:31 am on Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In the last post I shared about the amazing new ability of GoogleEarth on Windows to display or play embedded multimedia. One aspect of which is the ability to play MP3 Audio files from within GoogleEarth itself and I coined the term ‘GeoCast’ to refer to a Podcast with an embedded geospatial reference.

Since then I decided that maybe a better term would be ‘Glog’ :-)

To be honest I don’t quite know where to go with this, or where it will ultimately lead us. By combining emerging technologies it is possible to do some previously unbelievable things. For instance, the path I took on the internet tonight has me excited about the fusion of literacy, Web 2.0 technology and the new GoogleEarth capabilities. Let me explain…

I found a new eBooks site, where you can download over 17,000 titles, from Mark Twain to The Bobbsey Twins. Then I found which allows you to subscribe to a blog, but with the bonus feature of converting the text of the blog to speech with a pretty good computer generated voice (it sounded like NeoSpeech’s Kate) thereby turning the blog into a podcast which you can take with you on your mp3 player. And it is all free.

In thinking about it further, it was a simple matter of combining the text from through to create an mp3 that was then embedded into a GoogleEarth placemark. I am not certain about the legality of the entire process because of licensing and copyrights, so will not post the result here, but it highlights how alone each of the technologies is impressive, but together it has the ability to change entire educational delivery systems.

For instance, you can download the audio placemark for the previous post here to see what it sounds like. I hope it works. You are supposed to register at, but I think that might be so that you can customize your blog list.

The potential to convert text to speech and then embed that speech into a georeferenced object via a GoogleEarth placemark provides for new ways to attach meaning to texts.

From Huck Finn floating down the Mississippi River to going Around the World in 80 Days to other literature where the place is a critical part of the story, attaching the audio to the place can bring a unique focus to the text. Listeners of National Public Radio might be familiar with the StoryCorps project. The mp3 files, telling stories of place and time are readily available and free to the public. Placemarks of the stories, along with photos and textual background information could instantly immerse students in a different place and time.

It is not just literature, of course, but current events, history and science that can be tacked onto a world place. To me it is a bit mind boggling, but I am certain that others will see just a bit of what can be done by merging convergent technologies.

I can’t help but wonder where it will all take us…

New Version of Google Earth Expands Multimedia Capabilities!

Filed under: General — GELessons Blog Admin at 12:33 am on Sunday, September 2, 2007

The latest release of Google Earth is an exciting advancement in the technology! If you haven’t downloaded it yet, go grab the new version. It is well worth it! From the incredible clarity of GigaPixl Photoviewer technology to Google Sky allowing for exploration of the night sky and even a flight simulator mode, there is something for everyone.

One of the most exciting educational advancements, however, is the ability to incorporate Flash and other multimedia content within placemarks.

After learning of the ability to incorporate flash video I got pretty excited, yet the only examples shown were of YouTube videos. YouTube is a nice resource for personal entertainment, but due to it’s open, relatively unfiltered nature, it is not suitable for young eyes and is therefore blocked from many schools. Our entire District network has YouTube and other video sharing sites blocked. What is not blocked though are quality video sites such as UnitedStreaming, the Library of Congress and many other on-line video resources. Therefore I decided to test other multimedia formats and met with good success.

Unfortunately the video ability of Google Earth is limited to computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system, not Apple or Linux computers. At least not yet.

After extensive experimenting I was able to get the following multimedia formats to work in Google Earth placemarks: avi, mpg, wmv, mp3, asf and of course, swf. You can download the sample placemark collection here. A tutorial on how to embed the files into placemarks is here.

By using commercially available Flash authoring software like Camtasia Studio, it is now possible to create and display SCORM compliant flash quizzes inside placemarks without sending the student out of the application, allowing for smoother student workflow.

I believe that this new version of Google Earth is truly a turning point in that it allows for even fuller interaction with our amazing planet and the amazing people who live, or have lived on it’s surface.

Next up, I am going off to play with Google SketchUp and Sketchy Physics, a cool new plu-in that allows for objects in SketchUp to move and react to their environment. I’ll keep you posted as time allows…


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