This easy Google Earth activity will get you started

If you’ve been reading my blog, you might be aware of my love for Google Earth. Yes, I know it is a bit of an obsession but I have to tell you from a geography teacher’s perspective there are very few platforms out there that:

  1. are FREE
  2. are robust enough to create an immersive experience for a student.
  3. are flexible enough to allow students to create their own geographic content.
  4. puts student in charge of how they see the world.

Today I’m going to walk you through a step by step activity that I recently put together for an educator in the midwest who reached out to me via Twitter. (If you’re not on Twitter as an educator, GET ON IT!). He sent me an assignment that was for FWS (first-year writing students) where they would have to identify five places of personal significance and write a short rhetorical analysis about it. Originally the activity was done in Google Maps but the problem with Google Maps is that it only gives you a 2D experience. Google Earth allows you to experience a place spatially and get as close as possible to immersing yourself in a place without actually going there.

If you need some refreshers on how to build basic content you might want to start with a few of my previous posts:

Getting ready to teach with Google Earth

Creating good Google Earth content is harder than it looks

Nuts and Bolts of building Google Earth content

Task: Create a Google Folder that illustrates several places of personal importance.

Steps:

  • Open Google Earth… I know, it seems obvious but you’d be surprised how many people don’t realize that they have to open applications to use them.
  • For this particular activity I would suggest that you turn on the 3D building layers in your Layers panel and turn on Borders/Labels
Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 10.15.56 AM
You can find the layers panel in the bottom left corner of your screen in Google Earth. This will allow you to have a more powerful spatial experience when creating your folder.
  • In your Places panel, highlight “My Places” and add a new folder.
It is important to remember that you have to highlight the “My Places” folder before you create your project. Google Earth’s default is to create new folders in the ‘Temporary’ folder. If you do this just remember to click and drag it into My Place before you quit. You don’t want to lose all the work you created!
It is important to remember that you have to highlight the “My Places” folder before you create your project. Google Earth’s default is to create new folders in the ‘Temporary’ folder. If you do this just remember to click and drag it into My Place before you quit. You don’t want to lose all the work you created!

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 10.22.29 AM

 

  • You will see a box appear. This is called a dialog box. The name will be highlighted and will say “untitled folder’. Rename the folder as follows:

Your name, Name-of-Class/Section#

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 10.52.01 AM Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 10.52.28 AM

note the difference between the titles where it says “Name:”

  •  List 4-5 places of personal significance in the comment field of the dialog box.
    Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 11.02.52 AM
    The reason for this is that when you click O.K. and close the box the title of the folder becomes a hyperlink and when you click it your information will be displayed in a dialog bubble.

    Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 11.06.13 AM

  • Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 11.06.24 AM

We are almost ready to start adding placemarks, but before we do a few words of advice about some of the quirks to GE. You will get confused when you start adding placemarks because you will forget that you have to HIGHLIGHT the folder you want to put your placemark in BEFORE you click “add placemark”.  It is a common mistake and it happens all the time. I did it. You will do it. Just remember that you can easily ‘click and drag’ you placemark pack into the folder you want it in.

  • You’re ready to create a placemark. For my first example I’m going to use the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire. First I set up my view in Google Earth to something I like (see image below) then I will add a placemark. If you have forgotten how to navigate and fly to a perspective you like in Google Earth, check this post here.
  • Set up camera view by navigating to the perspective you want. You can do this step later but I like to do it first. Its gets my mind spatially and cognitively ‘there’
  • Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 12.10.09 PMIn the menu bar, click “ADD”. Then “Add Placemark”. Make sure you have the original folder highlighted before you actually click “Add placemark”

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 12.16.55 PM

  •  A new dialog box will appear. Notice that the title of the box says:

“Google Earth – new placemark”

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 12.29.38 PM

I’m going to change the name to “Mt. Washington” and then write my description paragraph in the comment field.

  • Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 12.32.51 PMBefore I click ‘OK’ I’m going to click on the yellow thumbtack and move it exactly where I want to on the screen.

 DONE WITH PLACEMARK #1.

Repeat this process for each placemark that you want to use. When you have finished you should have a folder complete with several placemarks, each with a description of the structure and it’s significance to you.

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 12.44.20 PM

Voila! It’s not that hard once you get a little bit of practice under your belt. Tomorrow I’m going to show you how to change some of the placemark icons settings. You don’t need to have yellow thumbtacks for everything in Google Earth. There is quite a bit of personalization that you can include in your content.

Google Earth Rocks.

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