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Google Earth

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23 Interesting ways to use Google Earth in the classroom

Google Earth Gallery for tours 

Google Lit Trips

Creating a Tour in Google Earth

Google Earth–and the ability to easily create tours with Google Maps–lends itself to many curriculum uses. In a literature class, teachers and/or students can create a guided tour of the main character’s journey, highlighting each stop along the way with quotations from the novel, descriptions of the stop and its relationship to the novel’s themes, pictures evocative of the spot’s symbolic or thematic significance, a discussion of the character’s growth, and links to interesting web resources. In foreign language classes, students and teachers can create guided tours of a city, or a scavenger hunt, or a recreation of where in the world is carmen san diego with clues in each pop-up balloon. Foreign language teachers can also have students visit a city and then find cafes, cinemas, restaurants, etc. and provide them with a budget to spend for a one-day visit. Students can write an essay determining the best spot for a new hotel based on GE research about local attractions, subway stops, and amenities. Younger students can create a tour of a particular country. History students can create tours tracing the journeys of great explorers or the conquests of emperors or the key battles in a war. Study latitude and longitude with a treasure hunt. The possibilities are endless.


Google is constantly fine tuning Google Earth, so each time you open the application and it connects to the GE server, you might find a surprise. One feature is real weather info, terrific for those of you who do weather units in Science class. The Weather option has three layers: cloud cover in real-time, doppler radar, and weather and temperature conditions. This feature could also be useful at election time; imagine using the weather to predict voter turnout. I am also constantly finding terrific KML overlays created by other users that can then be integrated into classroom content. My recent finds are one on the Bayeaux Tapestry, one on the spread of the Black Death, and another on population growth throughout the world. Two sites to find these files are The Google Earth Gallery and Google Earth Community Forums. I worked with one teacher who came up with a great lesson plan for Ancient Egypt. We flew to the Ancient Pyramids and zoomed in on them in 3-D. Then she zoomed out to show the contrast between the desert location of the Pyramids and the fertile Nile Valley and to discuss the rationale for the location of the Pyramids. We then downloaded from the Google Earth Gallery a great KML file on King Tut’s tomb. The best part was that we planned the lesson in one forty minute meeting and she used in for the next class. She was thrilled.



Creating A Tour

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Create a folder to store all your placemarks

Go to Add Menu

Choose Add folder

Name your folder


Create and edit the placemarks

Type in a place name in the fly to section and zoom down to the desired location 

Click on the push pin in the menu bar and add information; you will be using html for text and images

After closing the window, you can edit the pop-up by right mouse clicking on a PC or control click on a Mac for either Properties or Get Info.


To add image to a placemark/to add a video to a placemark

Copy the URL of the desired image

Control click or right-mouse click the pushpin or the text in the My Places section

Use Image Source Code <img src="paste URL here">

To add a youtube video, copy and then paste the embed code


To add a link to a placemark

Copy the URL of the desired web site

If you want white space before the link, type <br>

Use Link code <a href="/url">put the desired text here</a>


To have pop-ups appear automatically during a tour 

Go to Google Earth menu

Click on Preferences on the Mac or Options on the PC

Click on Touring Tab

Go to Tour Pause and adjust time

Check the box for “Show balloon when tour is paused”


To customize pushpin icon

Control-click on the Mac or right-mouse on the PC click to edit

Click on the pushpin icon on the top right corner.

Choose a pushpin. 


To add a path  

Click on the icon at the top of the screen that has the three squares. A window will pop up, and this window must stay open to draw the path. 

A box small box will appear. This box acts as your cursor.

Drag the box from your first stop (the first pushpin) to the second stop (the second pushpin) and then to the third stop (the third pushpin), and so on.

To edit your path, control click or right-mouse click on the path and select, “Get Info”.  

To play the whole tour, high light the path in your folder and click the play button below.


To save while you are working 

Highlight your folder on Google Earth . Go to File and click “Save”

A pop up menu will appear. Choose “Save to My Places”


To export as a kmz file 

Highlight your folder of Google Earth

Go to File and click “Save”

You will get a pop up window

Choose Save Place as

The Format should be set to kmz



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