Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Google Earth in the Classroom

earth(I recently attended the SC Ed Tech 2013 Conference. One of the great reasons I like this conference is that it is in my town so I don’t have to pay for a hotel! The other reason is that I connect with so many other educators. I always pick up something new from a session and if I don’t learn something new, I’m always looking at how the material is presented in order to hone my own presentation skills. For the next few days I plan on sharing the notes that I took from the sessions.)

Google earth in the classroom by Tom Taylor

This can be found in more detail on his website at: http://www.geopackrat.com/workshops

“The phrase “virtual tour” can be used to describe an number of Google Earth applications.  Most often it’s used in reference to a set of placemarks with information about one geographical area.  A tour can contain text, images, video, and audio, as well as external links to more information on the Internet.

Begin by creating folders to contain your placemarks and other tour elements.  This is done in the “Places” box in Google Earth.  Right-click on My Places and select Add, then Folder.

A dialog box will appear.  You can give the folder an appropriate name, and type a brief description of the folder.

It is possible to have folders within folders in Google Earth.  You will need to decide what hierarchy you will use for your folders.  In the example below I created three sub-folders - one for historic locations, one for schools, and one for recreation.

Once you have your folders in place, you can begin to add elements to your tour.

Linear vs Non-Linear - You will need to decide how users will interact with your tour.  Do you want them to be able to select random locations from a list, or do you want them to follow a prescribed path?

A good virtual tour will most likely be non-linear, but have linear elements from which your users can select.  In Google Earth it is actually easier to create non-linear elements, such as a simple collection of placemarks with information within a folder.   Linear elements can be effective, but require more planning and thought.

Once you have a basic plan for your tour you are ready to start adding content to your folders.  The “Description” box for any Google Earth element, which includes folders, placemarks, shapes, paths, and overlays, is actually a miniature web page.  It can contain text, images, hyperlinks, and even audio and video.

Unfortunately, Google Earth doesn’t provide a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) editor for the description boxes.  The only way to format text and add images is to add it as HTML code.  However, it is possible to format your information using other programs and copy the codes from those systems.

Linking vs Embedding
As mentioned earlier, text, images, and even audio and video can be displayed in the description box.  The boxes can also contain links to information that opens in an external browser.  As you create content for your tour, you can decide what information should be embedded into the box itself, and what should be linked to an external website.

  • Greater control over formatting and display.
  • Opening in a separate browser provides a larger display area.
  • It’s possible to link to data that is constantly updated.
  • Multiple links can be included in a single description box.
· Requires that an external browser be opened.
· Information isn’t as readily available
· Making hyperlinks look “pretty” requires knowledge of HTML

  • All of the information is readily available in the placemark itself without having to open an external browser.
  • Codes are usually created in another program and copied into the placemarks, so no knowledge of HTML is usually required.
  • It’s usually easier to create a visually appealing placemark with embed codes.
· Some content can be unpredictable when embedded.
· Content formatted for a larger area, such as a web page, may not display correctly.
· These are not mutually exclusive.  It’s possible to have embedded content in a placemark that also contains hyperlinks that open in an external browser.  You should decide which method works best based on the type of content.

Creating Original Content
The simplest placemark consists of plain text typed into a description box.  The only formatting allowed is simple paragraphs.  Images can be linked in-line using HTML codes.

Online - <img src=“http://www.webpage.com/image.jpg”>
Local -  <img src=“c:\some folder\image.jpg”>
You can share local images only if you save your file as a KMZ file.

If you put the entire link in the placemark, it will work, but won’t look as clean.  For example, you could copy the following URL in your placemark to link to an article about Shoeless Joe Jackson…
However, it would be much cleaner to do the following:
<a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoeless_Joe_Jackson”>Shoeless Joe Jackson</a>
What appears in the placemark is Shoeless Joe Jackson.  Users can click on the underlined word and be taken to the article.

Text Formatting:
Paragraphs  - <p> and </p> as follows:
<p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Sed lacinia. Etiam pretium viverra urna. Nam vulputate tellus in lorem. Aenean a ligula. Nunc arcu. Quisque fermentum est ut felis. </p>
Bold - <b> and </b> - example: <b>Bold Text</b>
Italics - <i> and </i> - example:  <i>Italics Text</i>
Underline - <u> and </u> - example:  <u>Underlined Text</u>
You can combine HTML tags, but be careful with placement.  For example the following would be acceptable:
<b><i>Bold Italics</i></b>
<i><b>Bold Italics</b></i>
However, this is NOT acceptable - <b><i>Bold Italics</b></i>

Copying from Google Earth Resources
There is already a wealth of information available in the Layers section of Google Earth.  Zoom into areas of interest and turn on selected layers in the gallery.  Right-click on the points of interest and select “Copy” from the menu.  The placemark can be pasted into one of your folders.
Not only will this provide some excellent content for your project, but it will reduce distractions on the map.

Embeddable Content
Some websites offer free membership and the ability to upload content.  Some of the sites are blocked by districts because of objectionable content or bandwidth usage.  Some of the sites are supported by advertising content.  Embedding the content into other contexts such as Google Earth may eliminate advertising.  All of these have been tested and are known to work with Google Earth placemarks.

Note about StreamlineSC, Discovery Education, and downloaded content…
Videos from Discovery Education are provided as part of a subscription service.  The ability to embed this content would violate licensing agreements, so those HTML codes are not available.  You can, however, link to StreamlineSC videos so that they play in an external browser or application such as Media Player.  You just can’t embed them so that they play in the placemark itself.  Discovery’s MediaShare does have some embed capabilities.

Just about ANY website can be embedded into Google Earth using the <iframe> tag.  Simply use the following code:
        <iframe src=”http://www.somewebsite.com” height=500 width=500>
Replacewww.somewebsite.com with the website you want to use.  The height and width settings can be changed, but these are the ones recommended.
Some websites work better than others.  Sites that already have embedded media such as audio and video will probably not work.
Google Earth creations can be saved by following these steps…
  1. Right click on the folder you want to save.  You can save individual placemarks, but it’s best to save them in groups or as collections.
  2. Select “Save Place As” from the menu.
  3. Type in a file name and decide if you want to save it as a KMZ file (default) or KML file.
KML and KMZ Files

KML Files:
•          Keyhole Markup Language
•          KML is text only, and cannot contain actual image files.  However, it can contain links to images online.
•          KML files are XML files and can be directly edited with a text editor.
•          KML files can be renamed as XML files and opened with programs such as Excel.
For example, a file named myplaces.kml could be renamed as myplaces.xml and opened in Excel.  Either file could be opened in a text editor.
KMZ Files:
•          Keyhole Markup Zip file
•          KMZ files are KML files that have been compressed into ZIP files.
•          KMZ files can contained image files.
•          KMZ files cannot be directly edited with a text editor.
•          KMZ files can be renamed as ZIP files and decompressed.
Probably the best policy is to save everything as a KMZ file.  That will make sure that all of your resources are included with the file.

IV.        Resources
Finding other tours online
You can do specific searches for Google Earth files.  Try doing a Google search using the following phrase:
        filetype:kmz virtual tour
This will find any KMZ file with the phrase “virtual tour” in it.  You can substitute “kml” for “kmz” to expand your search.”

For more info:
Tom @randomconnections.com

My Takeaway:
There are so many ways to use Google Earth in the classroom. I like how detailed his directions were in order to do this. I hope to use this information to develop my own virtual tours.
Do you use Google Earth in the classroom? If so, please share how you do.

Image: 'Peace
Found on flickrcc.net

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