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Google Earth Lessons Blog » 2008 » April

Google Earth Lessons Blog

An Educational Resource for Teachers

I stand corrected…

Filed under: General — GELessons Blog Admin at 2:09 am on Monday, April 21, 2008

After spending the better part of a week with the newest version (4.3) of Google Earth on two different models of laptop (one with only 512M of RAM, both with on-board graphics cards) and five different desktop computers (ranging from 512M - 4G of RAM and four different graphics cards) on three separate networks, I really must say that I stand corrected concerning GE’s performance and impact on lower end computers.

The more I use it, the more impressed I am by the performance improvements, especially the right-click zoom and rotate feature. If you haven’t tried it yet, simply right-click and drag anywhere on Earth.

click zoom

The effect is smooth, quick, easy to control and is a whole lot faster than using the slider control and there is no need to go into the options window to change your fly-to speed.

Another significant improvement is the relatively blazing speed in switching between Earth and Sky. I honestly used to hesitate to switch due to the lag time that would allow students to get slightly unfocused. Now, however, the switch is rapid and clean.

As to StreetView and 3D Buildings, there is a negative performance impact, but it is less than I thought. Due to the GE Team reprogramming how 3D buildings are delivered and rendered, it is a lot quicker to load the models now than before which can allow you and your students to focus on topics of interest, rather than twiddling your thumbs while the models loaded. It does seem to be the StreetView imagery and placemarks that slowed down the computers I tested it on, partly due to the rendering of the ’snapshot’ arcs and spheres.

I can see how lessons, like those created by Noel Jenkins at Juicy Geography where land use/urban planning and analysis plays such a key role, could really be enhanced by literally immersing the students in the urban environments under study.

The current version is still, officially, a Beta version meaning that improvements and bug fixes are on the way, but in the meantime here are a couple tricks I found work to alleviate two odd issues I discovered:

1. Rather than displaying the longitude and latitude, etc. at the bottom of the screen there appear to be random numbers flashing around. To resolve this issue open Tools:Options and under the 3D tab, switch from OpenGL to DirectX rendering (or the reverse).

Direct X

On the Gateway Profile computer with a PCI Nvidia graphics card in the lab that was exhibiting this behavior, it fixed it right up. You might notice a strange blocky rendering pattern on Earth’s surface after you switch, but as the imagery comes in clearer the blockiness disappears.

2. The Sunlight, Day/Night function does not show the correct shadow for the time of day it is (accompanied by odd letters and digits on the time slider). Click the clock symbol by the time slider option step 1 to open the time options and put a check in the box that says ‘Restrict time to Selected Folder’option step 2, click on the Primary Database icon in the Layers panel and it should clear up the problem for a while. I almost think that the issue I saw was more due to a conflicting time animation somewhere in the Places (buried in the tons of placemarks or Layers on that particular workstation) or Layers than an actual problem with the Day/Night option.

Speaking of the Day/Night, the Google Earth team added a subtle, yet beautiful, feature for computers with high-end graphics cards. Shadows, lighting and even starry skies! Tilt in a mountainous region at dusk especially and the effect is bound to be inspiring to your students!

Another little bonus is the fact that the Flight Simulator mode is now a menu option under the Tools menu.

tools menu

Not only is flight entertaining, but with the speed and altitude indicators there must be some fun math activities that could be created for students. I will leave that up to talented teachers like Thomas Petra from RealWorldMath.org or you :-) Frank Taylor at GoogleEarth Blog has a number of excellent tips on how to make Flight Sim mode more effective and enjoyable for you and your students, while the Google Earth manual lists over two dozen keyboard commands you can take advantage of while you fly.

Oh, one last thing while I have you here. Does anyone know why in the world there is a very large, very perfect equilateral triangle in the middle of the desert (kml file) near Phoenix?

triangle

New version of GE - Beautiful, yet Brutal!

Filed under: General — GELessons Blog Admin at 12:56 am on Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Just released this evening, the new version 4.3 of Google Earth is amazing!

Screen shot of the new interface.

For teachers, however, my first impression is that it will offer mixed blessings.

Big changes:

There are all new navigation tools, there is the ability to display the day/night line (this is something I have wanted forever!!), dated images when available, and the ability to view the Google Street View images directly within Google Earth for the first time (it has been available for quite a while in Google Maps, select cities only).

The new look and feel are incredible and the new changes will not be without a significant impact!

My first impression after about 10 minutes of playing with it are generally all thumbs up, but the big, big downside has to be the Street View images. They just brutalize the network and the computer! I am running a fairly good Windows computer with tons of memory, and it brought my fancy computer to a crawl when the images were loading. I hate to think what it will do to a low end student computer when the kids activate Street View. There is no question, it is amazingly cool and really will bring the world to life for the kids, but I can just hear the IT department now complaining about the massive new load that Google Earth will put on the school’s network, and I can hear the kids wondering why the computers have stopped moving.

Overall though the folks at Google Earth have done a remarkable job that will provide teachers an even more powerful tool for teaching a wide range of topics, and for students to share their knowledge in immersive, creative ways!

Happy Earth Wanders!

David

Fantastic Math Resource!

Filed under: General — GELessons Blog Admin at 4:00 pm on Thursday, April 10, 2008

I can’t believe I missed this one, but thanks to Stefan Geens over at Ogle Earth for reporting about a fantastic new Google Earth in Education site, RealWorldMath.org by Thomas J. Petra!

This beautifully designed site offers some inspiring, and inspirational lessons focused on four major areas of mathematics:

  • Concept
  • Project Based Learning
  • Measurement Lessons
  • Exploratory

Within each of the broad categories there are several lessons with Standards, Grade level and content area covered as well as very well designed KML/KMZ support files (placemarks, overlays, geometry, etc.).

I could easily wax on and on about how Mr. Petra’s site sets a new standard for Google Earth related educational innovation, but will let the site and the remarkable content speak for itself!

So, if you teach math K-12 and want your students more actively involved, need ideas or ready built lessons, RealWorldMath.org MUST be your first stop!!

 More soon as Mr. Petra’s site has me all fired up with some new ideas!

David

P.S. Thanks to Ed-Tech whiz Karen Seddon for letting me know that my humble little website was honored as the “Site of the Week” April 2nd by eSchoolNews.com! (I did the little shoo-wah dance when I found out:-)) Thanks Karen and eSchool News!

 

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