Tech Tuesday: Google Earth

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Google Earth:  More than “Miss, I can see my house!”

I remember when I first learned about Google Earth.  My students and I were fascinated by typing in our street address and zoom in so we could distinguish the roof of our school and then even the fence line of our backyards!  A view of our own little world and community from space provided us with a new perspective into how we related to the world around us.

When I was really on fire about Google Earth, I would pull it up, type in the name of a city or address or continent and display it for my classes to help them understand the geographical context of a story or author we were studying.  This was high-tech stuff for me as an English teacher. 

But, Google Earth goes far beyond “you are here.”  Did you know that Google Earth has features such as push pins, narration, tours, recording, annotation, embedding media, and so much more?!  Check out the  video to see some of the basic features while navigating in Google Earth.

For a hands-on experience, go to Tour of Google Earth’s features.

Of course, Google Earth is much, much more than merely zooming in and out to find landmarks.  Below is a list of popular tools in GE and how they can be used in the classroom (borrowed from Google Earth’s Education Resources): 

Classroom Resources: Features for My Class

Fly to the Sky: With Sky in Google Earth your students can explore Hubble telescope images, check out current astronomical events, study the proportions of different planets, measure their size, and observe the relative brightness of stars. You’ll capture the wonder of the universe without leaving your classroom. Learn More! Easy

View Historical Imagery: With the timeslider, view historical imagery to study the construction process of large buildings such as sports stadiums. You can also see how communities have developed by comparing the city layout of past and present. Learn More! Easy

View 3D Buildings :With 3D buildings Google Earth students have entire city landscapes at their finger tips. They can explore specific skyscrapers, public landmarks, famous ancient architecture, and even study city planning techniques and trends.  With Google SketchUp students can recreate entire ancient cities within Earth. Learn More! Average

Draw and Measure: Discover the world’s tallest building or the world’s highest mountain peak by using the ruler tool to measure skyscrapers and mountains. You can mark off specific regions you have studied, or want to come back to using the polygon tool. Learn More! Average

Create a Tour: Students can create customized tours to share with their classmates. For example, they can build context around a novel by creating a tour of all the places mentioned in the book. Or, they can make a tour to highlight all the major rain-forests effected by deforestation. Learn More! Average 




Google does a terrific job supporting educators and integrating Google tools into instruction.  If you are curious about how Google Earth could be incorporated into your content area, check out the Projects for My Subject page.

Google Lit Trips

As an English teacher and librarian, I am particularly excited about Google Lit Trips!  Teachers and students can browse the many Google Lit Trip tours already created to explore the geographical locations and landmarks in their favorite stories.  

Here is a tour featuring the mythological and present day locations of The Odyssey.  To view the tour, you will first need to download Google Earth and then download the kmz (Google Earth extension file name) for The Odyssey. Trust me–it is well worth the two clicks it takes to view it!  The tour includes a 3D map of the locations along Odysseus’ journey, excerpts from the epic, photos, tour guides with facts and further details about each landmark, and more!  


Check out this video using Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner as another example:





Not only can teachers and students browse the many Lit Trips already created, but they can create them as well for their favorite stories!  For more video tutorials on creating Google Lit Trips check out YouTube and Vimeo!  

Google Earth is also available as an app for a smart device, allowing students to view and create projects using their personal devices.  Perhaps a Google Lit Trip or similar resource might make for a great Flipped classroom introduction or “View” in VESTED!

So let’s hear it!  How could Google Earth be used in your content area?  


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