I recently published an Ezine article entitled "Google Earth Lessons: Using Google Earth Layers." I thought that I would repost it here.
Have you used Google Earth to promote the highest quality teaching and learning within your classroom? Have you challenged your students to use G.E. to answer innovative and insightful questions? If not, I believe that you are missing an important and free learning tool.
At first glance, G.E. is obviously about geography. But, it is good for so much more. Consider the innovative folks at Google LitTrips who have developed Google Earth lessons related to the most popular trade books read in today's classrooms. Certainly, considering literature through a lens of G.E. helps students understand literary concepts from a different perspective. (By the way, if you are not familiar with Google LitTrips do what any tech-savvy individual would do in the Twenty First Century, Google it.)
I do have one significant problem with many lessons developed for Google Earth. A number of these lessons are limited to G.E. layers. Think about the meaning of a layer in this way: Typically G.E. appears as a regular map of the world. (Of course, you can zoom in and zoom out. The regular Google Earth map also contains a street level view which enables viewers to see buildings and streets in many locations around the world.) A customized layer on the other hand enables a developer to add particular information and or sites to the map. So for example, I've developed a layer related to the Cuban Missile Crisis. This layer has spy images taken of Soviet-made weapons in Cuban. It also has a link to a radio address given by President John F. Kennedy at the beginning of this fateful period of time.
But, simply limiting the use of Google Earth in the classroom to providing students with access to layers is not sufficient. In addition, students must have access to prompts and activities that challenge them to use the information contained on a G.E. layer in meaningful ways. It's not enough for students to see a G.E. layer they must be challenged to interact with the layer in thoughtful and creative ways.
When Google Earth layers are combined with high quality instructional design, powerful learning can and will occur.
If you like this take a look at my website: http://www.pass-ed.com