Google Earth Lessons Blog

An Educational Resource for Teachers

Another great freebie, TechSmith’s SnagIt!

Filed under: General — GELessons Blog Admin at 3:00 am on Monday, November 26, 2007

For those Windows users out there who want to create tutorials for your students using screen captures (for use in documents, web pages or even placemarks), TechSmith is also giving away their older version of SnagIt! Great screen capture software that I have used for years, but always had to pay for or get by attending workshops (thanks to our County folks who were excellent at writing grants). All of the screen shots on this site were created with SnagIt.

Download SnagIt 7.25
Register SnagIt 7.25 for free



Ask and Ye Shall Receive!

Filed under: General — GELessons Blog Admin at 3:08 am on Saturday, November 24, 2007

WOW! Talk about timing!

Just the other day I was lamenting the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to do free audio ‘geoCast’ placemarks that had playback controllers without having to shell out $$ when what should happen? Along comes the wonderful company TechSmith! As some of you may know, TechSmith is the software company that is responsible for the industry standard SnagIt and Camtasia Studio screen recording software.


I just found out that TechSmith has released their old Camtasia Studio version 3.1.3 for free! They are currently up to version 5 which has some remarkable features, but retails for about $300 (educational discounts are significant though).

1. Go to and your download will automatically start.
2. Go to, enter your name and email address and some other basic stuff and in seconds you will have your registration number via email.
3. Install the software you downloaded and register it with the number in the email and Voila, you have a fully functional flash video/authoring studio for doing screencasts!

When I tested it out on my old PC I discovered some things, and some ways to work around the problems. Camtasia Studio is for recording your screen (along with a webcam if you have one) so when I only did audio it wouldn’t output the needed files, the publishing option was greyed out. I created a small blank jpg image and put that in the timeline with the audio which brought the publish button to life, but then it would crash when it was publishing the results. The final solution that worked was I recorded a small strip of the desktop’s background, just enough to fit above some playback controls in a placemark balloon and then everything worked great. Upon further reflection, I think it might actually be good to include some still photos of the topic to keep student’s interest focused. It would mean more work, but a better end product.

If you do use images, be aware of copyright restrictions. For royalty free photos, you can visit which has a lot of teacher created imagery, or for basic clip art there is

Not only can you do the audio ‘geocasts’ but that particular version also has the ability to create Flash based quizzes which you can incorporate into your placemark collections!

So, if you and your students are on Windows computers and you have a microphone handy you or your students can do some really cool stuff!

In the next day or two I will try to put together a tutorial on how to implement the suggestions above and incorporate it with Richard Treves concept of sequential audio tour placemarks, but if you want to start playing in the meantime, have a great, fun, creative time!



Filed under: General — GELessons Blog Admin at 4:04 pm on Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sorry about being so MIA lately!

Some of the things I have been working on but haven’t figured out or written up include:

• A synthesis of an idea I found over at the ISTE site where students chat ‘directions’ to another class on how to construct a shape. This builds math vocabulary, critical thinking, keyboarding and collaboration skills all at once. This one is pretty cool! What you do is either set up a chat server or install a LAN chat client (Tonic is currently my Windows Only Fave, but it doesn’t allow chat tracking from a central administration point, thereby bringing up cyber-bully type issues), so what you do is have students either use Google Earth or Google SketchUp and chat the directions to other kids. In my lab what we are going to do is the kids will use Google Earth, find a location and then give directions to a place somewhere else, for instance from the Courthouse to the Science Museum, by giving directions (go North 3 blocks, turn west, go 250 feet, ….) to a kid on the other side of the lab. Should be neat when I get the bugs worked out. With SketchUp what they would do is construct a shape and then chat the directions on how to build a duplicate with proper measurements to the other kids. The cool thing about Tonic is that you can attach files, so the kids can check each other’s work!
• Something that I have been puzzling over for months! How to use all the abilities of Google Earth, with time stamps, flash, etc. to create a ‘Where in the World is Carmen SanDiego’ placemark game to teach world geography (with Google Sky it could even be a ‘Where in the Universe’ game too!). I know that starting with a flowchart is the way to go, but there has to be a relatively easy, low-tech way of building the game. It would be perfect for high-tech network links and PHP (way complicated for the average person) type stuff, but my goal is to make a lesson template that any teacher can construct in an hour or less, allowing quick, easy curricular customization. It’s not going so well…
• Richard Treves had a neat idea for linked PodCasting Placemarks to create a tour, but the site he uses to create the flash based audio is commercial (15 minutes free space) so I was thinking there has to be a way a teacher can just record themselves and then toss the audio files wherever they need them, like a hard drive, USB drive, whatever, but I keep getting stuck on how to change an Audacity MP3 into a playback controlled flash file. When I figure it out to the point where the steps are super simple I will crank out a tutorial.
• Another thing that has been bugging me lately is why I am only yakking about Google Earth? Google Maps can do a lot of the same stuff and it runs pretty much on any computer without having to install special software or get the IT people fussy with you. Therefore I have made a command decision to start tossing Google Maps lessons I stumble across on here too. How’s this one for starters (courtesy of GoogleLatLong )? GoogleLitTrips, except with maps instead of earth… Tom Woodward’s neat lesson or Dale Basler’s physics lesson (that guy deserves an award! He has a great Blog!)
• I swear my to-do list is getting too darn long! There are such neat educational opportunities using Google SketchUp, Google Sky, the time slider, the new Weather layers, it is practically endless, and here I am running four clubs at the school on top of teaching 900+ kids and trying to keep my wife from feeling too neglected.. Oh well, I guess sometimes negligence is bliss :-)

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the ol’ US of A!


Playing Catch up…

Filed under: General — GELessons Blog Admin at 12:37 pm on Saturday, November 3, 2007

What a busy couple of weeks!

First of all, my apologies to M. D. Harrison who uploaded a great lesson plan called ‘Boom Town’ this past week. The lesson is now available to all! Sorry for the delay. I really like this one for several reasons. First is the catchy title, a good title makes for a great anticipatory set up for our ‘too much TV’ kids. Secondly, is the lesson’s focus. To quote: “This lesson has students go through a simulation to learn about value, abundance, and scarcity and asks them to consider the things that they would be willing to work very hard for.” All as they study geography, natural resources and history! The third thing I like about it is that it uses Google Earth in a way that I think most teachers are likely to use it, as a supplement and display/presentation tool. Curricular demands are so stringent today that taking content/class time to teach advanced concepts on how to use software tools such as Google Earth is not feasible for most classrooms. So, a BIG thanks to Ms. Harrison for the great lesson!

In other news, I spent way too much time on creating a far too complicated Nifty Tricks tutorial about the new PhotoOverlay Creator software which was released a couple weeks ago, only to find out that a critical aspect of the tutorial didn’t work. I managed to solve the problem, but with limitations. The software itself is great, free, runs on all platforms and is VERY easy to use ! It is when I went to create .kmz files to contain the PhotoOverlays that things got messed up. You can read the tutorial if you want, but you are probably better off just playing with it yourself.

If you don’t know what a PhotoOverlay is, in the latest version of Google Earth you can insert pictures that are ‘zoomable’. It is really cool and kids eat it up! If you look under Layers for the Gigapan and GigaPixl you can get an idea of how far you can go with the technology. From a lesson standpoint, there are a hundred ways to integrate the new capability into lessons. Some ideas include:

  • Compare and Contrast – What is different about the people, architecture, landscape in the picture compared to here, another picture of a different place.
  • Prediction – What do you think is about to happen to the man in the red hat? Where is the lady with the bags going?
  • Identify – Find three signs of past glaciation. Where would you most likely see a frog? Identify two places where the city has worked to control traffic flow. How many habitats can you find?
  • Story Starters – Imagine you are a cat sitting in the window of the white house. What could you tell about the people passing by? What changes might you have seen if the picture was taken 10 years ago?
  • Analysis – How might the rocks have gotten positioned in that manner? Why are the saplings under the tree instead of in the field?
  • Student Created Content – Place the overlay in the appropriate geographic location. Place the landforms in an area where you would most likely find them.
  • Use GIMP/PhotoShop/Graphics program to annotate an image for student use with arrows and captions, and such.

The thing is, if you just have nice pictures, you don’t need to use special software, you can just go under the ‘Add’ menu in Google Earth to ‘Photo’ and boom you have a great PhotoOverlay. The part I messed up in recognizing is that most teachers would need instructions on creating immersive panoramas, not on how to use them. Duh! To that end I can suggest a program called AutoPano Pro which, unfortunately, runs about $100, but is amazing in its capabilities.

Want to see something cool I thought of this morning (Windows Only, unfortunately!)? How about putting documents in balloon windows? Here is a placemark sample. Pretty neat, eh? This was accomplished thanks to ‘Flash Paper’ ($79) from Adobe. It used to be that the Flash Paper software was included with Camtasia Studio which is how I got it. Anyway, just an idea.

More as time permits!



Warning: include(403.php) [function.include]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/gelesson/public_html/blog/wp-content/themes/bluehorizon/footer.php on line 20

Warning: include(403.php) [function.include]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/gelesson/public_html/blog/wp-content/themes/bluehorizon/footer.php on line 20

Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening '403.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/lib/php:/usr/local/lib/php') in /home/gelesson/public_html/blog/wp-content/themes/bluehorizon/footer.php on line 20