Google Earth Lessons Blog

An Educational Resource for Teachers

Quia goes Google!

Filed under: General — GELessons Blog Admin at 2:43 am on Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I got a great email yesterday! It was from the nice folks at Quia.com.

If you have never heard of Quia, it is a neat site that, if you pay some $$ you can create any one of about a dozen different kinds of on-line activities, quizzes or surveys to share with your students.

The thing is that they have thousands of free pre-made activities, nicely categorized, that you can access without having to get a subscription in a ‘try before you buy’ marketing strategy. It just so happens that four of the activities are Flash based, and therefore are suitable for embedding within Google Earth placemark balloons (Windows Only, Current Version of Google Earth Required)!

On a whim I tried a little mash-up (or hack) to see if I could get one of the flash activities to load in a GE balloon and lo and behold, it worked! It is ultra cool!

Rags to Riches, adding even more value to Google Earth!Rags to Riches, adding even more value to Google Earth!

Well, I wanted to share it through this site but thought it might be prudent to find out if it was legal first. After reading every word of Quia’s Terms and Conditions of Use I still wasn’t sure so I shot them off an email telling them how their content could be used, that I wanted to train others how to do it and quick as a wink I got a note back from them saying that it was OK and thanks for sharing it on the gelessons site!

The four activities are some of their best ones. There is a Jeopardy style game called ‘Challenge Board’ which would be excellent for a whole class 20-30 minute game, a Hangman game that is great for reinforcing vocabulary, a game called Rags to Riches which is based on the TV show ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’ (one Quia teacher I spoke with said that when her kids win that one, the younger ones expect money to come out of the floppy drive on the computer :-) and finally a game called Battleship where when you hit the opponents ship you have to correctly answer a question in order for the hit to count.

The best part is that the trick is soooo easy to do! There is now a new ‘Two Minute Tutorial’ in the Nifty Tricks section with the amazingly easy details.

No, I am not getting anything from Quia to plug their site or service (wish I was!), I just thought it was cool. Ever since I got my own Quia account by going to a District sponsored workshop a month ago I have been impressed with what it can do. The on-line quizzes and surveys are especially useful as a paid subscriber, unfortunately for Google Earth they are not Flash based.

Now all we need is for Quia, or someone, to come up with Flash based quizzes that are scored by the system and we would really be able to teach and assess in one foul swoop!

David

P.S. If you comment on any of the posts here, your comments will most likely never show up. It is nothing personal. It is just that this blog gets, on average, 800-1200 spams a week, mostly for bogus pharmaceuticals, and while I scan through them, the real comments are nearly impossible to spot. If anyone has experience with this older version of WordPress who can offer suggestions on how to get rid of the massive amounts of spam I would love to know!

Lots of great new lesson ideas!

Filed under: General — GELessons Blog Admin at 2:08 am on Monday, October 22, 2007

A great big thank you to all the teachers who have submitted new lessons!

Tanya Zamora created a wonderful, intergenerational lesson that is fantastic for meeting a wide range of standards, not only in Social Studies, but Language Arts as well as students interview parents and grandparents then translate the times, places and memories into Google Earth files as a class. I would love to hear the discussions generated by the lesson as the students in her class see the web of travels that brought them together!

Meanwhile, Ms. Mainwaring shares an innovative idea about how Google Earth can be used by students as they examine the history and spread of business. From inventions to business practices, students discover the global nature of our economy. These abstract historical and economic concepts can get real traction with students thanks to the interactive nature of Google Earth.

Anne Marie Verlaan uses real life experience as the basis for her lesson about time zones as she travelled from London, Ontario Canada, halfway around the world to Australia! You have got to see her lesson plan! Not only is it filled with a ton of great information, but it is one of the most comprehensive lessons I have seen written up in a long time, almost like it was professionally produced! Wish I was that talented! (Did you know that the world was first split into the 24 time zones in 1884? I didn’t until I read her lesson. Fascinating!)

And last but not least, Sheila Hansen gets to the root of Google Earth in the classroom by sharing her 1 Hour Professional Development Lesson plan to be shared with her staff. I know that there are a lot of teachers out there who would love to use Google Earth in the classroom, but just don’t have the training. Ms. Hansen provides a solid framework for presenting the topic and spurring further collaboration through follow-up activities. One thing that really struck me about the plan was its close alignment with ISTE NETS standards.

As for me, I have been walking my 900+ kids through a U.S States and Capitals lesson with Google Earth where the kids create a placemark for each state capital. The lesson isn’t particularly innovative, but the kids are having a blast with it and I get to shout out ‘What is the capital of…’ and they actually know the answer, where ten minutes before they didn’t! I am using the Sheppard Software States Games site with the lesson which works great if you live in the U.S.

Speaking of Geography, I stumbled on a great site if you are studying world countries http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/. Not only does it provide a wealth of information, but when students investigate the different nations they will find Google Earth and Google Maps links throughout! Definitely worth a visit.

David

GPS Tangents…

Filed under: General — GELessons Blog Admin at 11:10 pm on Sunday, October 14, 2007

Google Earth is a great geography tool, and by spending some $$, or €€ (Euros) as the case may be, you can do even more awesome things with it. The problem though is that funding for education is usually far behind what is needed and to outfit a lab, much less a school, with Google Earth Pro or even Plus licenses can be prohibitively expensive. That is why I got so excited earlier this week when I discovered some great, free tools that provide super integration capabilities with Google Earth.

Let me back up…

Last year I was fortunate enough to get a $2,500 Best Buy Teach Award based on our work with Google Earth. We call it the iGEO Project (integrated Geophysical Education Odyssey) and is based on using Google Earth to address topics across the curriculum. As part of the award we were able to purchase 16 Garmin eTrex Legend hand held GPS units. We got the Award late in the year and with things being so busy this year I didn’t have a chance to play with them until last week when I had my computer club kids get them all unpackaged, programmed and tested. We did a Treasure Hunt of sorts.

The lesson was only marginally successful. I lost a quarter of the treasure (stickers inside little plastic plant stakes) and the students seemed to not quite get it, even though they had a wonderful time walking around outdoors fixated on their Garmins.

So, I put in some serious surfing time to try to get a handle on how best to use the devices with 8-10 year old students who have had ZERO Geography and Social Studies thanks to the high stakes tests here in Florida that focus solely on Math and Reading (important topics, yes, but I would rather have a well rounded citizenry making voting decisions in the years to come). In the process I stumbled across a great site by a Ms. Trimpe from Illinois who put together some great GPS lessons, activities and resources. One thing I noticed in her lessons though was that she talked about having waypoints on each of her Garmins for the activities. Now, I’m not lazy, but the thought of wandering around the school yard loaded down with 16 GPS units and adding the same set of waypoints to each and every one sounded like WAY too much work! So, off I went again on the internet and stumbled across all sorts of cool stuff!

The coolest is a Windows program produced by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources called DNR Garmin. The program is awesome! It moves data to and from the Garmin units, it produces csv (Excel compatible) output of waypoints and tracks, but the most exciting was that it did KML directly to Google Earth! I plugged the unit for one of the lost treasures into a computer, ran the DNR Garmin software and Boom! I had the track of the kids wandering around the school yard! It is so cool!

But that was just the start! Then I found GPS Track Maker where you can not only plug in the GPS and have it track you (supposedly, I haven’t actually tried it out with a laptop yet, only a desktop) but you can draw your own maps while you wander!! It looks great, it’s free and it fits right in with our iGEO Project, but as I mentioned it is untested at this point.

Anyway, I was really starting to get into all the GPS and free software thing and the Track Maker software made me think about serious mapping applications like ArcGIS which is so far out of our price range at the school that I might as well wish for a global field trip, and not the virtual kind. That is when I found that the ArcGIS people actually had us teachers in mind! They have a limited, but still fantastic, free mapping application called ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (a hefty 100+M download). While it doesn’t have anything to do with Google Earth since it can’t output in a Google Earth format, at least as far as I explored, it does make a great tool and has some good lesson files you can download.

Then, just this morning I stumbled across USA PhotoMaps which has the neat ability to query the Microsoft TerraServer for not only satellite photos, but topographic maps of the US. The best part is that it will output in jpg format, thereby making topographic image overlays for Google Earth easier!

Sorry to ramble on with all the links and things, but it is neat to find so many free resources that tie in with GPS and Google Earth!

We have two new lessons submitted that I will be moving on to the lessons page VERY soon, so stay tuned for them, one from a teacher named Verlaan in Ontario, Canada is a wonderful 6th rade exploration of Time Zones, while the other contributed by merimain integrates business concepts through the exploration of several inventions. Hopefully I can get to them before calling it a night since I would love for you to have them to start the week off with!

David

A new lesson - with a twist…

Filed under: General — GELessons Blog Admin at 2:28 am on Monday, October 8, 2007

Many thanks to Sheila Samuel from South Carolina for submitting a new lesson! You can find her lesson here. The exciting part for me is that what Sheila did was take an existing, well written, lesson about the migration of song birds and successfully modified it to take full advantage of changing technologies. What was once a paper and pencil investigation has now become a highly interactive, student focused lesson that incorporates technologies that are becoming more pervasive in school settings.

In her heavily annotated lesson plan you can see the thought processes of this new breed of teacher who is not afraid of technology, but embraces it and involves the students in ways which just a couple years ago would have been closer to something you would see in a Science Fiction movie.

Students are becoming more technologically sophisticated and as professionals working to meet the needs of those students, we too must be moving forward. Today’s students are plugged in and interactive and thanks to the efforts of teachers like Ms. Samuel and you, students don’t need to leave the digital world they know so well at the school-house door!

David

 

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